Arizona Fall League update and other Minor League notes

While there are still four teams alive in the Majors, many minor league players have begun playing for the various winter baseball leagues now. The Arizona Fall League has been going for about a week and the Scottsdale Scorpions, where the Yankees players landed, are 2-4 so far. Dellin Betances may have struggled in his first outing, but he came back nicely on Friday, pitching two hitless innings. He did not walk anyone, struck out four batters and was apparently throwing 95mph. Mark Montgomery has made a couple appearances, giving up a run on two hits and a walk over 2.1 innings, striking out five. Zach Nuding has pitched in one game, giving up one run on a homer. He threw two innings and walked two and struck out three. Finally, Daniel Burawa’s first appearance for Scottsdale went well, as he pitched a scoreless inning. He did allow two walks, but struck one out. Unfortunately, he got pretty well smacked around on Saturday. He gave up five runs on five hits and a walk in just 0.2 innings of work. It should be pointed out that Burawa missed all of the 2012 season with a torn oblique, so these are the first games he’s made it into this year.

The Yankees’ hitters for the Scorpions have looked good so far this season. Slade Heathcott has gone 3-13 over four games with a RBI, three walks and a stolen base. He has struck out five times, but seems to have impressed Keith Law who thinks Heathcott has star potential if he stays healthy. Law seems less sure of the young outfielder’s ability to stay healthy, however, attributing it to how hard he plays. David Adams has a hit in all four games he has played this year. He is 5-13 with a double, three walks and only one strikeout. Austin Romine, who also missed most of 2012 with a back injury, is 3-14 in four games. He has a double, a couple walks and a couple Ks.

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Betances shaky in Arizona opener

Dellin Betances is participating in the Arizona Fall League this year, attempting to salvage something from his disastrous 2012 campaign, but so far he’s most certainly not off on the right foot. Working out of the bullpen in yesterday’s opening game, Betances got touched up for two runs on a double, two walks, and a wild pitch in 1.2 innings of work. Only 13 of the 28 pitches he threw were strikes. Both of the runs scored after he left the game, but still, that’s not good stuff from Betances.

On a more positive note, Austin Romine (catcher) and David Adams (third base) both started in the game, and each went 1-3 with a walk and a double. Continue reading Betances shaky in Arizona opener

Yankees DFA Cory Wade

Cory Wade started the season as an important cog in the Yankees’ bullpen, had a pretty good run to begin the season, and then dramatically fell apart not long after. he wound up getting banished to the minor leagues, and with the exception of a brief cameo during a doubleheader in Boston, wasn’t seen again until September callups. And now, via Anthony McCarron, the Yankees have designated him for assignment, removing him from the 40 man roster altogether. That potentially puts his tenure with the Yankees to an end, meaning he’ll always be remembered as the guy who gave up the ninth inning game tying home run to Dan Johnson in game 162 of the 2011 World Series to keep the Rays alive and, ultimately, help doom the Red Sox. There are worse things to be remembered for.

The purpose of the move is to clear room on the 40 man roster for Dellin Betances, who’s being activated from the 60 day disabled list so that he can compete in the Arizona Fall League. The staff over at Baseball Prospectus labeled him one of the 10 prospects to watch out in the dessert this season. Continue reading Yankees DFA Cory Wade

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

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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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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Looking back at the 2012 Tampa Yankees


The Tampa Yankees had a tough 2012, ending the with a losing record (65-70) for the first time since 2005. The Yankees fell behind with a sluggish first half, but looked better during the second part of the season. The return of Slade Heathcott, along with the addition of players like Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez helped the Yankees rebound towards the end of the year. Other Florida State League teams were not the only thing the Yankees had to battle, as weather (and the Republican National Convention) threw the last couple months of Tampa’s schedule in disarray. On more than one occasion, the Yankees played back-to-back days of doubleheaders in order to stay on track.

Pitching was inconsistent for the Yankees in 2012, excelling in some areas and instances while struggling at other times. Their team ERA of 3.77 put them right in the middle of the pack in the FSL, while they had the second highest WHIP (1.37). They only allowed 62 homers (3rd lowest) and their 1089 strikeouts were second only to Clearwater. They lead the league in walks, however, giving 498 free passes. Nik Turley had a very strong year on the mound for the Yankees, while Brandon Pinder and Mark Montgomery were solid out of the bullpen. It was no surprise that they all saw action for Trenton by the end of the season.

Offense was largely the same story for Tampa, as they were often right in the middle of the FSL. They had a team slash line of .254/.317/.372. Their on base percentage was their real weakness, as it only higher than Charlotte’s. This was in large part to drawing just 382 walks. Despite this, the Yankees had some strong offensive performances. Ramon Flores was a huge presence all season and Kyle Roller gave the Yankees some power with eighteen homers. Roller, along with Turley, made the FSL Postseason All-Star Team.

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