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.

2015 Minor League Preview

Though there is still snow that hasn’t quite melted away outside my window, like many of you, nothing says spring more to me than the start of baseball season. The Yankees got their first game of 2015 under their belt yesterday, and by the end of the week the Minor Leagues will have begun as well. With that in mind, here is a quick reminder of how the minor league affiliates ended last season, along with some of the prospects to watch.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:
Last Year: For the second season in a row, the RailRiders ended with a lackluster 68-76 record. Despite this disappointing record, there were some positive signs, not the least of which was their offense. The RailRiders had the best team batting average in the International League and they owned team slash line of .273/.337/.413. Pitching was less successful for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with their numbers putting them squarely in the middle of the pack.

Prospects to Watch: There are a few familiar faces in Scranton this season, including some intriguing prospects who should get a chance in the Bronx at some point. Slade Heathcott, the former first round draft pick for the Yankees whose journey to the majors has been curtailed by various injuries, appears to be healthy and made a lot of noise in the big league club’s Spring Training. Robert Refsnyder has continued his quick ascension through the farm system. There is no doubt he can hit, but he will need to resume his work on defense if he is going to become an everyday second baseman in the majors. Top prospects like Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores will also start the season with the RailRiders. On the mound, Scranton will see familiar hurlers like Chase Whitley, Matt Tracy, Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez.

Trenton Thunder:
Last Year: Much like their Triple-A counterparts, Trenton had a disappointing 2014 campaign, ending 67-75. Unlike Scranton, however, it was Trenton’s pitching that was their strong point, while their offense was mediocre. As a team, the Thunder had a 3.84 ERA and had the second-most Ks in the league with 1093. Their .256/.323/.385 slash line put them right in the middle of the Eastern League, while their 75 stolen bases were the second-least in the EL. Luckily, Trenton is poised to have a very different season, featuring some of the most exciting prospects in the Yankees’ system.

Prospects to Watch: Honestly, there are plenty of players to choose from in Trenton this year. Top catching prospect, Gary Sanchez, will return to Trenton to continue his work. He put together a solid season with Trenton last year, but his defense is still a major concern. Prospects such as Eric Jagielo, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Jacob Lindren and Luis Severino promise to make Trenton a team to watch in the EL this season. Meanwhile, players like Mason Williams, Dante Bichette, Jr. and Cito Culver, who have struggled quite a bit the last few seasons, will also be taking their swings in Trenton. Also returning to the Thunder is Mark Montgomery. He looked like he was going to fly through the minors in his first couple seasons, but he was slowed down by injury.

Tampa Yankees:
Last Year: The Yankees managed to put together a winning season, going 71-68. As their record dictates, the Yankees were fairly unexceptional in 2014, despite some exciting performances by Judge, Bird and Severino. Tampa pitchers managed to combine to throw 1089 Ks, which was the second most in the league, along with holding opposing batters to just 52 homers, the least in the Florida State League. Otherwise, their pitching stats primarily put them in the middle of the pack. On offense, Tampa put together a line of .256/.325/.377 and struck out a league-leading 1154 times. They also weren’t too much of a threat on the bases, swiping just 70 bases for the second-lowest total in the FSL. Power was the key to the Yankees’ offense, as they smashed 87 homers, second only to Clearwater’s 91.

Prospects to Watch: Honestly, so far there aren’t many prospects that have me particularly excited for Tampa this season. Ian Clarkin, the pitcher the Yankees took in the first round of the 2013 draft, had a strong start to 2014 in Charleston and threw a strong five innings for Tampa. He is easily the most intriguing active prospect on the Tampa roster now. Domingo German would have joined him on the mound, but it looks like he will be having Tommy John surgery instead. Rookie Davis, Gabe Encinas and Brady Lail will all be on the mound for Tampa at some point this year, while Miguel Andujar, Angelo Gumbs, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade will be trying to provide the offense.

Charleston RiverDogs:
Last Year: The RiverDogs went 71-69, just barely managing a winning record. They had some impressive performances on both sides of the field. Charleston’s batting statistics were rather average, but there were some good signs. Considering the lack of speed in Tampa last year, Charleston’s 159 stolen bases (good for third in the Sally League) was one of their highlights. They also managed to draw an impressive 511 walks, which was also the third most in the SAL. Pitching, however, seemed to be the RiverDogs’ strength. They had a team ERA of 3.66 and managed to put together eleven shut-outs. Their 1140 Ks were second only to Greensboro, while keeping their walks to a respectable 427. Charleston also didn’t allow too many long balls, as opposing hitters only connected with 65 homers.

Prospects to Watch: This is a pretty young looking crew with a lot of question marks, as usual when you are looking at Low-A ball. The most intriguing player that will see time in Charleston is Jorge Mateo, a shortstop from the Dominican Republic. The young prospect is only 19 and has garnered a lot of attention ever since making his US debut last season. Abiatal Avelino will get his first taste of full season baseball, looking to build on the 53 games he spent in Charleston in 2014. Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade and Gosuke Katoh will also be in Charleston this year. Continue reading 2015 Minor League Preview

Robert Refsnyder moves to the outfield – for now

refsnyder

It has been well documented that Robert Refsnyder has been hitting the ball very well this year. This follows a very quick journey through the Minors after ending his college career with a College World Series title and the MOP award. Last year, the Yankees moved Refsnyder to second base, as they thought his lack of power hitting would play better there than as a corner outfielder. No doubt this move looked even better when Robinson Cano left for Seattle.

Many people tagged Refsnyder as a prospect who could move through the system quickly, but learning a new position was likely to slow this process some. Earlier this week, however, Brian Cashman told the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate to have Refsnyder get back to playing some outfield and added to the rumor mill by saying that if he was to get the call this year it would likely be to play in the outfield. The Yankees sorely need some offense and, after reworking his swing with Marcus Thames in Trenton, Refnsnyder’s bat is begging for a chance in the Bronx (he’s hitting .308/.431/.551 right now). Particularly as Carlos Beltran faces more injury time and the ineffective Alfonso Soriano was designated for assignment.

Yesterday, Donnie Collins, from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Times/Tribune, wrote about Refsnyder’s potential temporary position change. The short version is that he is not a fan of the move, primarily because he fears that having Refsnyder stop his work at second base for the short term (assuming the Yankees still want Refsnyder at second for the long term) will push his development back further. I can see his point, and given the looming question marks surrounding the future of the Yankees’ infield I would love to see Refsnyder develop into an everyday second baseman.

The big knock on Refsnyder has been his defense at second base, which really is not surprising given that he only has a season and a half at second under his belt. During the first half of the season, Refsnyder committed nine errors with Trenton. He hasn’t had any errors in Scranton, and Collins believes the youngster will make a solid Major League second baseman. Even more notable is that Gene Michael has also had positive things to say about Refsnyder’s work at second. While Refsnyder may not be ready to play second at the Major League level, all signs seem to indicate that he should be able to make the transition, which I find to be fantastic news.

The other reason Collins doesn’t seem to like this move is due to the Yankees’ questionable status as a contender. Obviously, right now it feels like the Yankees are sinking, thanks to the almost absurd amount of injuries they have had this season (Ivan Nova, Beltran, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka, Beltran…) and their often anemic offense. Personally, I tend to be more of an optimist and I’m not ready to count this team out. If they are still hanging around and need a little offensive jolt, why not see if Refsnyder can provide it? It can’t hurt and worst case scenario he goes back to Scranton and continues to work on playing wherever the Yankees are going to put him.

The other take away from the many discussions about Refsnyder seems to be his leadership potential. Much like Derek Jeter does, Refsnyder is saying all the right things, such as “you want to do what’s best for the Yankees and the best for this team” and “I’m a team player. Whatever the coaching staff wants, I’ll do.” The difference is, he seems to be backing it up by playing whatever position the Yankees need or want him to play without a complaint. For a guy who is 23 and on the verge of breaking into the Majors, he seems to be keeping a pretty level head and perhaps this is what has me most excited about him. Refsnyder seems to have the whole package that Yankees fans have been craving for the last few years and I can’t wait to see him take his first hacks in the Majors.

Continue reading Robert Refsnyder moves to the outfield – for now

Minors Review: June

With trade season upon us, a fair amount of the conversation revolves around the Yankees lack of prospect trading chips. Given that, it is hardly surprising the mediocre performances the Yankees’ affiliates have put together this season. There are some strong individual performances to be sure, but of all the full season teams, the only team not to have a losing record in June was Tampa, who went .500.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders:
The Yankees’ Triple-A team went 12-17 in June, putting them 10.5 games behind Syracuse in the IL North Division as of Sunday afternoon. Losing Ramon Flores and Mark Montgomery to the DL this past month certainly hasn’t helped matters. While the Railriders are struggling to pick up the wins, their team statistics are not as dire as one would expect. On the mound, Scranton owns a 4.34 ERA, which is the fourth highest. They have minimized damage by the long ball, as their 53 homers are the third lowest in the IL.

As a team Scranton is hitting .270/.335/.407, giving them the second highest batting average and slugging percentage in the International League. They have the fourth fewest strikeouts (633) and the most triples (27), but they also have the least amount of walks taken.Robert Refsnyder was promoted in June and put together a .364/.494/.606 line in his first 20 games in Triple-A. He had nine RBIs and three homers. Jose Pirela also had a strong June, hitting .336/.385/.504 with 18 RBIs, five stolen bases and four homers.

Trenton Thunder:
While Scranton’s June wasn’t great, Trenton’s was abysmal. They went 9-19, including a seven game losing streak at one point. They now find themselves 18.5 games behind Portland. Neither pitching or hitting is giving the Thunder much to get excited about. Their 4.03 ERA puts them in the middle of the road and while they have the third most Ks (659) and third fewest homers (52), they also have the third most walks (308). In the batter’s box, Trenton is towards the bottom of the Eastern League with a team slash line of .254/.321/.382.

Peter O’Brien, who started the year strong, hit .198/.250/.386 in June. He managed five homers during that time, but he also struck out 33 times, drawing just five walks. Mason Williams, who has struggled this season, had his best month so far. He hit .253/.292/.343 with a pair of homers and six stolen bases. Manny Banuelos, continuing his return from Tommy John surgery, threw eleven innings in June and gave up two walks and three runs, striking out eleven.

Tampa Yankees:
Tampa went 13-13 in June and find themselves just one game behind Brevard County in the young second half of the season. They ended the first half 33-37, which put them 13.5 games behind Dunedin. Another positive sign was that they ended June and started July with a six game win streak. As a team, Tampa’s hitting statistics general put them in the middle of the pack. They hit .254/.320/.367. Their 711 Ks is the most in the FSL, but they also have 49 homers, the second most. There are some good signs on the mound, where they have allowed the least homers (28) and have 680 strikeouts (2nd). Their ERA is 3.31 which puts them in the middle.

Rafael De Paula had an up and down June. He went 3-3 with a 6.29 ERA, in large part to two ugly games in the middle of the month. He ended June with two scoreless outings. De Paula continues to strike out batters, notching 30 Ks in June and only walking seven, but he got hit for a hefty .337 average. Luis Severino was promoted and is off to a strong start. He went 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in JUne, striking out fourteen and walking two. He allowed batters to hit just .139 off him. On offense, Jake Cave went .298/.360/.556 and Greg Bird went .291/.390/.419 with eleven doubles.

Charleston RIverDogs:
The RiverDogs went 9-18 in June, including an eight game losing streak to end June and start July. As the Sally League starts their second half, Charleston already sits nine games back with a 4-13 record, after ending the first half thirteen games out of first place. Their pitchers know how to strike out other teams, picking up a league leading 754 strikeouts so far. Their 3.95 ERA isn’t particularly exciting, but over all their pitching does not seem to be their main problem. They have only allowed forty homers and have the least hit batters in the league. Then again, when you are looking for positives and one of the best things you can come up with is least hit batters, you may be grasping at straws. Ian Clarkin put in some strong outings in June, going 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts. He did not give up a homer, struck out 28 and walked just eight while allowing hitters to hit just .216.

At the plate, Charleston is hitting just .251/.333/.379. They have swiped 96 stolen bases, the third most in the SAL, but they have also struck out 684 times, the fourth most. Eduardo De Oleo hit .321/.381/.571 in June with four homers and ten RBIs. Michael O’Neill managed to go .278/.358/.433 wth two homers, seven doubles and five stolen bases.

Staten Island Yankees:
The New York-Penn League started in June and the Staten Island Yankees are currently sitting 4.5 games behind Hudson Valley in the McNamara Division. They went 10-7 in June, primarily thanks to some strong pitching performances. They have a 2.98 ERA and lead the league with 207 strikeouts, walking just 75. They have only let opposing teams hit four homers, the least of any team in the NYPL. At the plate, Staten Island is struggling for sure. They went .229/.313/.327 so far and have just five homers, tying them for the least. The Yankees have 25 stolen bases, so when they are on base they can do some damage.
Continue reading Minors Review: June

Yankees kick off international free agent signing with a bang

Just as Katie told us yesterday, the Yankees broke out the checkbook in a big way for this year’s international free agent signing period, including all four of the players she wrote about. While the Yankees have yet to confirm any of these signings, reports have them picking up ten players yesterday for a total of $14.25 million in signing bonuses, far surpassing their assigned 2,193,100. Here is a quick look at the signings so far.

Dermis Garcia (SS): The Dominican power hitter will likely outgrow short, but with his big arm he could look nice at third. He was ranked at the top of MLB.com’s rankings and ninth for Baseball America, earning him $3.2 million from the Yankees.

Nelson Gomez (3B): Another Dominican infielder, Gomez was widely considered the top offensive player in this year’s class, fetching him $2.25 million from the Bronx Bombers. He was ranked second by MLB.com and sixth by BA. Continue reading Yankees kick off international free agent signing with a bang

Minors Review: May

As you may have noticed by the lack of Farm Reports this past month, I was out of commission for most of May, recovering from Tommy John…wait, no…from rotator cuff surgery. College athletics – the gift that keeps on giving! I am slowly getting back to “normal” (or as Brad said, I’m about ready to throw a side session) so I hope to resume those posts in the coming weeks.  For now, I will ignore the frustration caused by my slow one-handed typing so as to permit me to at least get out the end of month posts. So, without further adieu, let’s look back at May.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:
At the end of May, Scranton was 28-26 and two games behind Rochester in the IL North. After a lackluster start to 2014, the RailRiders had a solid month, going 17-13, thanks in part to a six game win streak.

The RailRiders hurlers only allowed seven homers in April, a feat they were unable to replicate in May, though their 24 homers through May still were the least in the International League. Their 4.04 ERA  puts them in the bottom half of the league, though their 2.26 K/BB ratio is one of the strongest. The return of Jose Ramirez gave Scranton a boost out of the pen. He made six appearances (7.2 innings pitched) holding opposing batters to just one earned run. Robert Coello, Danny Burawa and Mark Montgomery all contributed in relief also, although Montgomery’s 3.75 ERA doesn’t quite live up to what we have come to expect out of him.

Pitching may have been what kept the RailRiders in the mix in April, but their hitting came up big in May. By the end of the month they had a .270 team batting average, which led the IL. Their triple slash was .270/.334/.396.  Only two teams struck out fewer times than the RailRiders, though they have only drawn 158 walks, the second least in the League. Austin Romine, who was virtually nonexistant offensively in April, appears to have turned the corner, hitting .313/.389/.453. Zoilo Almonte and Adonis Garcia also contributed with their bats, though Garcia appeared to be slowing down toward the end of the month.

Trenton Thunder:
While Scranton improved over May, Trenton faded. The Thunder led the EL Eastern Division on May first, but after going 14-18 in May they find themselves in fourth place, 8.5 games behind Portland. Trenton’s strong pitching has given them some hope, while their offense has been a mixed bag.

The Thunder pitchers lead the Eastern League in Ks, striking out 429 batters, though the 195 walks were well above the league average of 172.5. They have also held opposing batters to just 30 homers. Manny Banuelos joined the Trenton rotation at the end of April, as he works his way back from last year’s TJ surgery. He struggled in May, but managed two scoreless, hitless innings in his last appearance. Jeremy Bleich put together a very solid May, with a 2.39 ERA, 32 Ks and 10 walks over six starts.

Despite players like Mason Williams continuing to struggle and Gary Sanchez having a tough May, there are some exciting bats in Trenton. Peter O’Brien has been promoted to the Thunder and while he isn’t hitting for the average he had in Tampa, he continues to crush the ball. In the first two months of the season he had 20 homers, averaging one every two games when he got to Trenton. Rob Refsnyder had a torrid May and, as EJ pointed out, he gives Yankees fans a middle infield prospect to actually get excited about.

Tampa Yankees:
The Yankees’ 13-15 May record puts them eleven games behind Dunedin in the FSL North Division. Strong pitching and power hitting appear to be what keeps Tampa going, however, it has not been enough. On the mound, their 3.12 ERA is only good for putting them in the middle of the pack, though their 424 Ks and 155 walks are impressive. They have also held opposing teams to just 15 homers, the least in the FSL. Dan Camarena put together a very good May, while heralded prospect Rafael De Paula struggled.

Most of the Yankees’ offensive stats are mediocre, though their 41 homers are more than enough for the FSL lead. Of course, their power numbers are likely to go down with O’Brien now clubbing homers for Trenton. As a team, the Yankees are hitting .254/.316/.382. Jake Cave and Eric Jagielo have both gotten hotter at the plate, helping make up for O’Brien’s absence. Meanwhile, Dante Bichette, Jr. has cooled off some and Angelo Gumbs went cold in May.

Charleston RiverDogs:
The RiverDogs sit 10.5 games behind Savannah, with a 27-28 record. As their record reflects, Charleston appears to be fairly mediocre on both sides of the field. Charleston is a strikeout pitching team, with 467 Ks and a respectable 160 walks. Like the other Yankees’ affiliates, the Charleston hurlers have succeeded in limiting the long ball, but their pitching has not been dominant. Luis Severino continues to impress, striking out 30 batters and walking just four in May, with a 3.16 ERA. On the other side, Jordan Cote was hit for a .339 average in May and gave up eleven runs over 13.2 innings.

At the end of May, Charleston hit .245/.333/.373. Interesting, their 37 homers are the fourth most in the Sally League and their 19 triples are the second most, while they have the least doubles with 76. The RiverDogs have shown off some speed on the bases, when they manage to get on, swiping 69 bags and getting caught 25 times. Aaron Judge wasn’t as hot as he was in April, but his last ten games of May had him hitting .308/.333/.615. Mike Ford also continued swinging a hot bat, while John Murphy and Kale Sumner faded.

  Continue reading Minors Review: May

Prospects Who’s Not: April

Well, I’ve given you the the hot prospects for April, along with some well-deserved honorable mentions, so now it’s time for the not so hot. While the Hot list was tough to make because there were those deserving a mention who got left off, the Not list was much easier. This was in part to some rough performances by some recognizable names, but also because not as many of the more important prospects struggled. There were plenty whose April was more of a mixed bag, but here are five who really are going to need to turn things around in May.

Austin Romine (C, Scranton):
I have never given out a Not Prospect of the Month, but Romine is tempting me this April. After a brief call up to New York early in April, the Yankees passed him over for John Ryan Murphy when Cervelli got injured. If Romine was trying to convince them they made a mistake, he certainly has done little to prove them wrong. He ended the month with a six game hitless streak and as of May 4th he only has two hits since then. For April, Romine “hit” a paltry .108/.195/.135. His only extra base hit was a double and he had one RBI. To be fair, Murphy didn’t have great numbers in Scranton either, but he has started to heat up in the Bronx and Girardi has been singing the young backstop’s praises for his defense.

Adonis Garcia (OF, Scranton):
Garcia turned some heads during Spring Training, but he struggled some in Scranton this April. The Cuban outfielder hit .247/.282/.329 with one homer and three doubles. He did swipe three stolen bases, not getting caught stealing at all. It is early, but Garcia has shown signs of life in May.

Mason Williams (OF, Trenton):
It wasn’t that long ago that Williams was breaking out as a major prospect, but his status has started to cool and he didn’t help himself this April. Williams went .223/.292/.311 in April, with one homer, one triple and four doubles. The outfielder struck out fifteen times, but did draw ten walks. He also managed to do some damage once he got on base, stealing three bases out of four attempts and crossing the plate safely eighteen times.

Cito Culver (SS, Tampa):
At this point, no one is expecting Culver to turn into an offensive threat, but if he could just become passable at the plate, the shortstop could absolutely have a future in the major leagues. The Yankees will be needing to fill that spot at short next year and with few exciting options there, it would be nice if Culver could get his bat going enough to let the Yankees believe he could at least play some role there in the future. Culver tends to be streaky at the plate, but he found himself struggling in April. He hit .215/.265/.269. To his credit, he picked up ten RBIs and five doubles, but he also struck out 26 times in 23 games.

Gosuke Katoh (2B, Charleston):
Katoh crushed the ball in the Gulf Coast League last year, but this year he is off to a slow start. In twenty games, he hit .200/.338/.338. He has struck out an ugly 32 times over that span, drawing twelve walks. On the plus side, he has shown off his speed, with six stolen bases in eight attempts. He also had three doubles and three triples. Continue reading Prospects Who’s Not: April

Prospects Who’s Hot: April

I always like it when this list is hard to put together because I feel like there are a decent number of players I could talk about here. That was the case this month, so here are my picks for April, in no particular order.

Peter O’Brien (C, Tampa):
O’Brien had a solid first full season in professional baseball last year, splitting time between Charleston and Tampa. He has picked up right where he left off this month, crushing the ball with a .330/.361/.703 line. He had eight homers, eight doubles and a triple, alone with sixteen RBIs. Despite crushing the ball, O’Brien has only taken four walks over 24 games, striking out 22 times. If he keeps swinging like this he may be taking at bats in Trenton by the break.

Luis Severino (RHP, Charleston):
The Dominican righty got his first taste of baseball stateside last season and has started his first full season very strong. Despite a rough first outing, where he gave up three runs in just two innings, Severino turned around and threw seventeen innings with only one earned run over the rest of the month of April (four starts). He racked up 22 Ks, including one game where he struck out eight batters in 5.2 innings, and walked just six. The 20-year old hurler is definitely a prospect to be excited about, but he is still very raw and needs to work on keeping batters guessing with his delivery.

Aaron Judge (OF, Charleston):
The tall (6’7) outfielder that the Yankees drafted out of Fresno State in the first round of last year’s draft, made his professional debut this April and so far has lived up to the hype. In 23 games, he has a .369/.449/.473 line, along with eleven RBIs. He has struck out eighteen times, but has drawn sixteen walks. Judge has been an integral part of the RiverDogs’ offense, but has yet to showcase his power potential.

Gary Sanchez (C, Trenton):
Sanchez continues to be one of the most highly ranked Yankee prospects and he is off to another strong season. Still just 21, the Thunder backstop hit .316/.388/.487 with a couple homers and eight doubles. Part of the tough top half of the Trenton lineup, Sanchez has eighteen RBIs. Austin Romine has already seen John Ryan Murphy seemingly move ahead of him, at least for the time being. If Sanchez keeps this up, Romine will have another catcher to worry about, especially since the Yankees haven’t shown signs of moving Sanchez to a different position.

Dante Bichette, Jr. (3B, Tampa):
The last couple years it has been tough watching Bichette struggle at the plate for the RiverDogs, but a change of scenery may have done the trick, as the Florida native is tearing it up in the Florida State League. While Bichette hit an unprecedented eleven homers last season, his average stayed below .250 for the second year in a row, dropping to .214. During the month of April, Bichette hit .321/.442/.440 with a homer, seven doubles and seven RBIs.  His average isn’t the only positive change in Bichette’s performance at the plate. His eighteen walks have him on pace to fly past his previous season high of 48 bases on balls.

Honorable Mentions
Mark Montgomery (RP, Scranton):

Montgomery had flown through the minors in his first couple seasons in the Yankees’ system, however, injuries got him off track last season. It looks like he is returning to form this year, giving up just two runs over ten appearances (twelve innings), striking out twelve and walking just six.

Michael O’Neill (OF, Charleston):
O’Neill didn’t hit any homers in his 64 games in Staten Island last year, though he did hit seventeen doubles. Despite hitting only .219 for the Yankees, O’Neill started 2013 with Charleston, and while his average was still low (.233), he has been a major part of the RiverDogs’ offense, hitting five homers, two triples and a double for a .465 slugging percentage. Continue reading Prospects Who’s Hot: April

Minors Review: April

I find it hard to believe that it is already May, possibly because up here in northern New England it felt like winter was never going to end this year, but it is and so we have our first month of Minor League baseball in the books. The strange weather has played some role in the early part of the season for some of the Yankees’ affiliates, but overall there have been some very positive things going on down on the farm.

zoiloScranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders:
Like many of the teams located in the northeast, the RailRiders’ April was interrupted by the slow departure of winter (if in fact it has left…). They had nine games postponed due to rain, snow or inclement weather, in addition to battling through some chilly games. At the end of April, Scranton had an 11-13 record, while not the strong start the RailRiders had hoped for, it hasn’t put them too far behind Buffalo and Pawtucket, who both started the year a little stronger and lead the IL North Division.

The RailRiders’ offense hasn’t done much to set them apart from the other teams in the IL, but they’ve had some strong performances on the mound. Scranton has only allowed seven homers this season, as opposed to Durham’s 26. They also have the second least walks (68) to go with 211 Ks. The addition of former Yankee hurler, Alfredo Aceves has given Scranton some help, to go along with strong starts from Bruce Billings, Chase Whitley and Brian Gordon. Graham Stoneburner has been inconsistent in Trenton, but he had some strong numbers for Scranton, while Mark Montgomery has a 1.50 ERA and two saves in his ten appearances (12 innings).

On offense, Zoilo Almonte is the only RailRider with multiple homers(6). His production at the plate has complimented Ramon Flores and Scott Sizemore, providing a lot of Scranton’s offense. Zelous Wheeler spent some time on the DL, but he has also been a force at the plate. Meanwhile, Austin Romine isn’t doing much to show the Yankees that they should have called him up instead of John Ryan Murphy. Corban Joseph and Adonis Garcia could also use a jump start to their offense.

Gary SanchezTrenton Thunder:
The Thunder are actually off to a very strong start this year, going 16-9 in April. They are at the top of the EL Eastern Division standings with Portland. They put together three game win streaks three times in April, and while they haven’t necessarily stood out at the plate or on the mound, they have shown an ability to find a way to win and hold onto wins in close games, as evidenced by their league leading ten saves.  Their strong first half of their lineup, along with some great bullpen performances has made up for some lackluster starting pitching.

The Thunder has an exciting lineup, and some of their key players got to work early this year. Kyle Roller, Gary Sanchez, Ben Gamel and Rob Segedin have been crucial to Trenton’s success thus far. Robert Refsnyder started slowly, but he has started to heat up lately, hitting .297/.350/.405 in his last ten games. Mason Williams, however, had an awful April and needs to turn things around in May. Zach Nuding has given the Thunder some solid innings off the mound, making five starts and holding onto a 2.43 ERA with 28 Ks and only seven walks. Bryan Mitchell, Jeremy Bleich and Matt Tracy have been a mixed bag in their starts. The Thunder has seen some strong pitching out of the bullpen. Pat Venditte has made eight appearances and holds a 1.50 ERA, striking out sixteen and allowing only four free passes. Branden Pinder has yet to be scored on this year, making ten appearances and throwing thirteen innings.

O'BrienTampa Yankees:
The Yankees also have a winning record through April, but their 14-12 record has them trailing FSL North leader Dunedin by 5.5 games. Tampa has some exciting power hitters, which has paid off at times, but it is their pitching that is keeping them in games so far this season. They had the third lowest ERA in the FSL at 3.11 and lead the league in Ks with 218, while walking just 80. Only Dunedin has allowed fewer homers, as Tampa has only seen eight opposing homers.

Peter O’Brien is pounding the ball for Tampa, knocking the ball out of the park a league leading eight times this season. His .703 slugging percentage is also the best in the FSL. Also exciting to see is Dante Bichette Jr., who seems to have put his struggles in Charleston the last couple years firmly behind him. Jake Cave and Angelo Gumbs have both also done some damage for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching got boosted by Manny Banuelos, who started his return from Tommy John surgery with five strong starts for Tampa. Eric Wooten and Rafael De Paula both have thrown some solid starts for the Yankees, while Phil Wetherell, much like Pinder, has yet to be scored on in his nine appearances out of the bullpen. De Paula leads the team with 33 Ks, good for third in the league.

Charleston RiverDogs:
judgeCharleston ended April with an even 12-12 record, putting them in the middle of the SAL Southern division. Early in the month the RiverDogs suffered a five game losing streak, but they turned around and won their next four. As a team, the RiverDogs are putting together strong numbers on both sides of the plate.  They have a respectable 3.24 ERA and have struck out 225 while walking only 74. Conversely, RiverDogs hitters have drawn 102 walks, good for second in the league and have shown some power with eighteen homers and eleven triples.

Aaron Judge has given Charleston a lot to cheer about at the plate, hitting .356/.456/.471. Mike Ford and Tyler Wade have also been consistent contributors on offense. Michael O’Neill has shown off his power with five homers, a slugging percentage of .455 and a team leading seventeen RBIs, and he has done it all while hitting just .227. Nick Rumbelow continues our trend of relief pitchers who have yet to give up a run. He has thrown eight innings and picked up four saves, striking out fifteen and walking just three. He has allowed just four hits. Luis Severino has been the lone bright spot in the starting rotation, boasting an ERA under 2 and striking out 22 while walking six. Continue reading Minors Review: April

The Farm Report: 4/29/14

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lost to Durham 6-5: The RailRiders started the game with a solo homer from Antoan Richardson for a 1-0 lead. Durham had their first of two big innings in the bottom of the second. Vince Belnome lined a single to center and Mike Fontenot did the same with one out. A force out at second by Robby Price put runners on the corners with two outs, but a triple by Ray Olmedo put the Bulls up 2-1. Eddy Rodriguez followed with a single and the RailRiders trailed by two. A double by Ramon Flores was wasted in the third Continue reading The Farm Report: 4/29/14