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.

The Farm Report: June

Well, I don’t know about you all, but June flew by for me. I can’t believe we are already in July, but here we are. Let’s take a look at how the Yankees’ farm teams did last month and what the rest of their season may hold.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:
The RailRiders currently hold a half game lead over Rochester for the top spot in the North Division of the International League. They went 18-11 in June, including five-game and seven-game win streaks. They ended June on a sour note, however, taking five straight losses. They lost their first game of July as well, but managed to turn around and stomp Pawtucket last night to stop the skid.

The RailRiders continue to find success primarily through their batting. While they have some strong pitches both in the rotation and in the bullpen, Scranton’s overall pitching numbers has them generally in the middle of the pack. Batting is another story entirely. As a team, Scranton is hitting .271/.342/.384, for the highest average and on base percentage in the IL. Their slugging percentage is second. Continue reading The Farm Report: June

Prospect Profile: Brady Lail

Brady LailI’ve noticed Brady Lail working his way through the Yankees’ farm system the last few years, but at times he has seemed to fly under the radar, particularly given some some of the bigger name pitching prospects that are working their way up to the Bronx. The right-hander from Utah has pitched pretty consistently as he climbed the ladder and is putting together a solid season for the Trenton Thunder, so let’s find out a bit more about him.

Name: Brady Joe Lail
Birthdate: August 9, 1993
Birthplace: South Jordan, UT
Bats: RightThrows: Right
Height: 6’2
Weight: 205

Drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 draft, Lail started his professional career right out of high school and has the potential to be one of those late round drafts that pays off, which is why I love following the minors. His career started in the Gulf Coast League, where he managed to put together a strong five games in 2012. He returned to the GCL in 2013, where he had a 2.33 ERA in 54 innings, along with giving up no homers, striking out 51 batters and only walking five. Lail spent most of 2014 with Charleston, where he had a 3.71 ERA in 97 innings. He gave up six homers, seventeen walks and struck out 95 batters. Lail was promoted to Tampa, where he appeared in seven games and put up some equally solid numbers. Continue reading Prospect Profile: Brady Lail

Judge called up to the RailRiders

judgeThe march of the prospects continues for the Yankees as news broke last night that Aaron Judge, the Bombers’ top power hitting prospect, has been promoted to Triple-A. When the Yankees drafted Judge out of Fresno State with the 32nd pick of the 2013 Draft, they thought they had drafted a guy who could move rather quickly through the system, and so far they seem to be right.

Judge has flown through Charleston, Tampa and Trenton in less than a season and a half. After signing late in 2013, Judge never made an appearance due to a hamstring injury, but he wasted little time in making an impact on Charleston in 2014. In 65 games, the huge outfielder went .333/.428/.530 with nine homers. He was promoted to Tampa, where he continued to hit the ball hard. Judge wasn’t done when the regular season ended, however, as the Yankees sent him to Scottsdale for the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees invited Judge to Spring Training and he had a strong start of 2015 with Trenton, hitting .284/.350/.516 with twelve homers, three triple, sixteen doubles and 44 RBIs. Continue reading Judge called up to the RailRiders

Catching up with the Thunder

thunderWhen I wrote about the RailRiders earlier this week, it wasn’t intended to start a series of similar posts, rather I was just excited by what is happening in Scranton. However, much like Scranton, Trenton is putting together a nice season, after a rather disappointing 2014. While some of the names are the same, the reasons for Trenton’s success are less clear.

Last year, the Thunder went 67-75, landing in fourth place in the EL Eastern Division. Today, they are sitting at 37-29, just half a game behind the New Britain Rock Cats. If the season ended today, Trenton would be back in the playoffs, a feat they have managed to pull of a little over half the time that Trenton has been in the Yankees’ system.

As I mentioned on Monday, offense has been the driving force behind Scranton’s strong season thusfar. Trenton’s strength seems to lie more with their pitching. As a team, Trenton has a 3.58 ERA and is tied for the most shut outs with seven. They are limiting damage with only 26 homers, the least in the EL, and they have the second most strikeouts with 491. They also have the most walks issued, however, giving up 224 free passes. Continue reading Catching up with the Thunder

Catching up with the RailRiders

refWhen I first started covering the minor leagues for IIATMS about four or five years ago, the truly exciting prospects were in the lower levels and, in some cases, weren’t even stateside. It often felt like Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was stocked with players who were either desperately trying to make it back to the majors, even though their prospects looked bleak, and those who had once been greatly touted, but were never able to breakthrough (see Eric Duncan). This is one of the many reasons I have gotten such a kick out of seeing players like Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores and Mason Williams all make their debuts this year.

It’s been pretty exciting for me to watch some of these guys as they move along. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some (Chase Whitley wasn’t off my radar, but I didn’t expect much from him) and disappointed by many (Graham Stoneburner – who just seemed destined to put on pinstripes with a name that translates to Steinbrenner, Dante Bichette, Jr., Jesus Montero, and so on). Despite most of the prospect talent having been lower in the farm system, the RailRiders had some surprisingly successful seasons, but they struggled quite a bit the last couple seasons. This year so far seems to be a different beast entirely. Continue reading Catching up with the RailRiders

Recapping Day One of the 2015 Draft

After not having any picks in the first round of the draft last year, the Yankees had two first round picks and a second round pick last night. Not only did they have a few decisions to make on the first day, but the Yankees also had their lowest pick (16th) since 1993 (13th). Let’s take a look at the newest Yankees’ draftees.

James KaprielianJames Kaprielian (RHP): The righty out of UCLA was widely expected to go in the middle of the first round. Much like their first pick last year, Jacob Lindgren, the Yankees chose another pitcher in Kaprielian who could be ready for the majors in very little time. Kaprielian started his collegiate career coming out of the bullpen, but in his sophomore and junior years the hurler took up the front spot in the rotation. Scouts believe he is a pretty solid bet to be a middle of the rotation guy on a major league team, making this sound like a smart pick for the Bombers.

Kaprielian is a big guy, standing at 6’4 and 200 pounds. Last year, he went 10-4 with a 2.03 ERA, leading the Pac-12 with 114 Ks in 106.2 innings, only walking 33, and holding opposing hitters to a .226 average. With four quality pitches, he throws in the low-to-mid 90s and uses a nice curve as his primary out pitch. Kaprielian also has a decent changeup and has been working on a slider, but the key is that he throws strikes and rarely leaves the ball up in the zone.

On the human interest side, Kaprielian lost his mother to breast cancer last year. As was her wish, he went ahead and pitched for USA Baseball that summer, going on to throw six scoreless innings against Chinese Taipei just days after she passed. He notched twelve Ks and was got the team’s International Performance of the Year.

holderKyle Holder (SS): With the 30th pick of the draft, the Yankees took a defense-first shortstop from the University of San Diego. This pick was compensation for David Robertson signing with the White Sox during the off-season. So far, from the reports I’m seeing, I must admit I’m fighting the comparison between Holder and another defensive first round pick the Yankees made a few years ago, Cito Culver.

First the good news. Holder is probably one of the best defensive players in the entire draft. He has an above-average arm, can throw from the hole and moves well side-to-side. Holder’s first love appears to be basketball, as he stated that “I never really practiced a lot playing baseball while I was playing basketball. The first baseball game was right after our last basketball game.” This may account for both why he is such a solid fielder, and perhaps also why the offensive part of his game appears to be lagging. Continue reading Recapping Day One of the 2015 Draft

Slade Heathcott’s Long and Winding Road to the Majors

sladeAs you likely know by now, Slade Heathcott made his major league debut Wednesday night when he pinch ran for Mark Teixeira in the eighth and then played center. This is not just notable because arguably the Yankees’ most important offensive piece, Jacoby Ellsbury, hit the DL, causing the Yankees to call up their first round pick from the 2009 Draft. Hopefully, Heathcott gets an opportunity to pick up his first hit sometime soon, but as we wait for that I thought I’d look back on Heathcott’s long road to the Bronx.

If you have followed the Yankees’ farm system at all the last five or six years, you know the name Slade Heathcott and why I am so excited to see him finally break into the majors. Granted, his stay may be a short one for any number of reasons, but considering how miniscule the percentage of minor league players to ever make an appearance in the majors is, this is no small feat. One that, after initially appearing like almost a sure bet, seemed more and more certain to never occur.

Almost exactly four years ago, the full story of Heathcott’s background started to break, only to be followed up with him getting plunked and then ejected from a game after kicking off a benches clearing brawl. I posted about that incident and the ways in which Slade was drawing comparisons with Josh Hamilton, writing, “Hopefully, this story will continue towards a feel-good ending, much like Hamilton’s seems to.” Okay, so the latter part of this statement may be far more questionable, but it is really great to see that Heathcott’s story has continued to be an inspirational one.

Zachary Slade Heathcott was born on September 28, 1990 in Texarkana, Texas. Heathcott did not have an easy time growing up. Born to a teenaged mother, he was eventually adopted by the man she later married. While they stayed married for seventeen years, it was clearly a tumultuous relationship. When Heathcott was in high school his father spent time in prison and eventually his parents divorced and his mother moved to Louisiana. During this time, Heathcott turned to alcohol, got a DUI, once ended up with a shotgun pointed at his father and broke into a house while drunk. At times during high school, Heathcott stayed on friends’ couches or in lived out of his truck.

Despite his chaotic and unstable surroundings, Heathcott continued to excel athletically, garnering just as much attention for his skills on the gridiron as for those on the diamond. Many teams passed on Heathcott, due to his “questionable character” and upbringing, but the Yankees took a chance. At first, it looked like they were going to lose that gamble, as Heathcott’s professional career beginnings quickly exposed his alcohol problem. The Yankees dragged him to Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as a mentor, and soon Heathcott seemed to have turned things around. While there are plenty rough stories about Heathcott’s high school years, there were plenty of good stories that shed light on the person and player he could be.

With the character issues seemingly dealt with, Heathcott seemed primed for a quick assent to the Bronx. Unfortunately, that is when the injuries struck. He has steadily progressed through the Yankees’ farm system, but out of five potentially full seasons he could of played, Heathcott only played in more than 100 games once, when he played 103 in 2013. He followed that by playing in just nine games in 2014. Despite the injuries, Heathcott has a career minors line of .270/.345/.398, but it was beginning to really look like bad luck would end up keeping him from realizing his dream.

This is why it was so exciting to see him show up healthy and ready to play this spring. While Heathcott seemed like a sure thing, given his natural talent on the baseball field, he had many more hurdles to overcome than simply the Sally League, Florida State League, Eastern League and International League. I must admit, I had definitely reached the point where I didn’t think this day would ever come for Heathcott, but now that it is here – I really hope this is just the beginning of an incredible story. Continue reading Slade Heathcott’s Long and Winding Road to the Majors

Checking in with Rob Refsnyder, IL Batter of the Week

refsnyderRob Refsnyder had made a name for himself well before the Yankees took him in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft. After being drafted, Refsnyder went on to win Most Outstanding Player honors with Arizona at the College World Series. Having capped off his collegiate career on top, Refsnyder signed with the Yankees and quickly began his professional pursuit. The young second baseman hasn’t stopped picking up some hardware as he journeys towards the Bronx, with his most recent honors coming on Monday, when he was named the IL Batter of the Week.

In truth, Refsnyder’s recognition for last week was well-deserved, but doesn’t come close to telling the full story. Between May 11 and May 17, Refsnyder hit .400, with six extra-base hits (two homers and four doubles) and six RBIs. After Tuesday’s game against Charlotte, however, Refsnyder is riding a ten-game hit streak and has made it on base in every game since the second game of a doubleheader against Pawtucket on April 25 (21 games). Something seems to have changed as of April 25 for Refsnyder, whose average dropped below .200 for the first time after Game 1. Since that point, Refsnyder has taken his line from .193/.233/.228 to .312/.378/.440 in large part due to the fact that he is hitting .383/.471/.583 in the month of May. Continue reading Checking in with Rob Refsnyder, IL Batter of the Week

Prospect Profile: Jacob Lindgren

jlindgrenJacob Stephen Lindgren
Born: March 12, 1993, Biloxi, Mississippi
Height: 5’11
Weight: 205
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Position: Relief Pitcher

Even though it has been a couple years since I consistently wrote prospect profiles, by and large the players on the upper level rosters are very familiar to me. Jacob Lindgren, a relief pitcher with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, would be one of the big exceptions. Having been drafted out of Mississippi State by the Yankees in 2014, Lindgren has shot through the Yankees’ farm system and appears to be on the cusp of making his major league debut.

Lindgren was picked by the Yankees with their first pick of the 2014 draft, however, he was taken in the second round, as the 55th overall pick. The southpaw began as a starter in college, taking Mississippi State to the College World Series, and then in 2014 he started coming out of the bullpen. Quickly becoming one of the most dominant relievers in college baseball, Lindgren didn’t slow down after signing with the Yankees, making appearances with four Yankees minor league affiliates last year. Continue reading Prospect Profile: Jacob Lindgren