Can Heath Bell Be Of Any Value?

[caption id="attachment_66763" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Heath Bell 2014 Courtesy of Getty Images[/caption]

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

The shuffling and re-shuffling of the middle relief deck has been a constant for the Yankees this year.  Early injuries to the starters, some DL stints at the front end of the ‘pen, and a lot of really poor performances have combined to create a rotation of mostly mediocre characters through the last 2 spots and the Yanks are very much still in search of a couple of reliable options.  They’ve got rookie Jose Ramirez in one spot for the moment and the recently-acquired David Huff in the other.  You’ll remember him from his tandem starter duties with Phil Hughes last season.

Another move Cash made to add some organizational depth was signing Heath Bell to a MiL deal last Friday.  Bell was released by the Rays earlier in the season after putting up a 7.27 ERA in 17.1 IP and most recently he had been pitching some OK ball for the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate (4.22/3.24 in 10.2 IP).  He’s been on an accelerated downtrend for the last few seasons, so is there any reason to think he might have something offer the Yankee bullpen? Continue reading Can Heath Bell Be Of Any Value?

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

Who is Chase Whitley?

When Joe Girardi made the official announcement that Chase Whitley would start, there was a collective response from Yankees fans … Who? With all the injuries to the pitching staff, New York needed to fill CC Sabathia’s Thursday start. So, Girardi dug into the minors and yanked out Whitley, a 25-year-old righty from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Whitley spent most of his minor league career as a reliever. He’s played in 151 games, but wasn’t moved to the starting role full time until this season. He’s made 14 starts in the minors. In seven games (six starts) this season, he has a Continue reading Who is Chase Whitley?

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

The Farm Report: 4/28/14

I am running late today, so it is a bullet point kind of day… Scranton/Wilkes-Barre beat Durham 10-8 (13 innings): In a game that went back and forth, Durham took a two run lead in the first, only to have the RailRiders pull ahead 5-2 in the fourth. The Bulls scored four in the fifth for a 6-5 advantage, but Scranton once more had an answer, plating two runs in the sixth and another in the eighth for an 8-6 lead. A pair of former Yankees came up big in the bottom of the ninth, as Justin Christian singled and Continue reading The Farm Report: 4/28/14

The Farm Report: 4/27/14

Scranton lost to Durham 6-4: The RailRiders drew first blood as Russ Canzler knocked a solo homer to left in the top of the second. Jerry Sands did the same in the bottom of the inning, tying the game at one run apiece. Ramon Flores started the third with a walk and it was Zoilo Almonte’s turn to go yard, giving Scranton the 3-1 edge. They held that lead until the bottom of the fifth, when Durham put together a nice rally. Eddy Rodriguez singled to right and Justin Christian and Vince Belnome hit back-to-back singles, bringing home Rodriguez. A Continue reading The Farm Report: 4/27/14