Tag Archives: Graham Stoneburner

Nightly Links: Recap, Stoneburner, PANIC!

Tonight, the Yankees won 6-2 to the Orioles for their first win of the year.

Ivan the Stopper
This spring, no one was worse than Ivan Nova, who had an 8.06 ERA through 22.1 innings. After less than quality starts from CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda, and a strong but short outing from Phil Hughes, the team called upon the 25 year old right handed pitcher to stop their losing streak and win their first game of the year. In the first inning, Nova looked like a different pitcher. According to both the stadium radar gun and Gameday, Nova was sitting 94 and topping out at 96. In the second inning, Nova started mixing in his breaking pitches, and quickly learned that his changeup was not on tonight when Matt Wieters hit the perfect meatball for a homerun. Aside from Wieters, Nova sat 94, and later 93, with his fastball and was drawing plenty of swings and misses on his slider. All in all, he went 7.0 innings, 10 hits, 2 runs, and 7 strikeouts. Good enough for the best start of the year award.

The Offense Wakes Up
In the first, Derek Jeter singled, followed by two quick outs, Alex Rodriguez walked, and finally Mark Teixeira singled in a run! Although the Yankees had the lead on Friday, it felt like an eternity since they were winning a game. It didn’t take long for Wieters to tie the game with his homerun, but then the 4th inning happened. After walks by Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones, Russell Martin finally got his first hit of the year and singled in a run. Nunez followed up with a sacrifice fly and then Jeter proceeded double on a huge fly ball to rightfield which would have been an easy Yankee Stadium homerun. Now with a 4-1 lead, the Yankees didn’t look back the rest of the game. The team scored a couple more runs thanks to a homerun from Andruw Jones, a double from Granderson and an RBI single from Brett Gardner. Jeter had the best game, going 4 for 4 with a double.

The Bullpen
David Robertson entered the game in the 8th inning, and was brilliant hitting corners and immediately drawing 2 strikeouts. Of course, he needed to bring a runner into scoring position to finish the inning though, and after giving up successive singles, Robertson finally finished the inning with a groundball to Robinson Cano. Although it was a non-save situation, Mariano Rivera got the 9th inning, and he appeared to struggle again. After a quick 2 pitch at bat to Chris Davis that resulted in a pop out, Robert Andino doubled off the rightfield wall. That was followed by a strikeout to Nolan Reimold and then a sharp linedrive to Brett Gardner. The boxscore will say that he didn’t give up any runs, but it was clearly an un-Mo inning where he was going full count on most of the hitters and giving up sharp hit balls. It looks to be a product of missing spots, perhaps the cutter just isn’t cutting right, and I wouldn’t chalk it up to anything but rust. Rivera closed out the first win of the year, a 6-2 win over the Orioles.

  • Adam Warren got the start for the Scranton Yankees and only last 3.0 innings, giving up 7 hits, 6 tuns, 4 walks, and only 1 strikeout. The bullpen would only give up 2 more hits the rest of the game. Most impressive was Pat Venditte, who immediately relieved Warren going 3 innings, only giving up 1 walk and 1 hit, and earning 4 strikeouts. Offensively, Chris Dickerson kept raking, going 2 for 5 along with Steve Pearce. Ramiro Pena doubled, as did Dewayne Wise who also had a homerun and a single in his first game back. Scranton lost to Syracuse 6-5. (Box Score)
  • The left hander Josh Romanski started for Trenton against Portland today, going 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 2 strikeouts. Chase Whitley went 2.0 innings in relief, and only gave up 1 hit, 1 walk, and 3 strikeouts. Offensively, the Almonte’s both earned 3 hits, with Zoilo Almonte hitting his second homerun this year; Gustavo Molina hit the other homerun. Jose Pirela and Walter Ibarra both hit doubles as well. Trenton beat Portlant 8-3. (Box Score)
  • In Tampa, Andy Pettitte continued his work in the minors. In his 3.0 innings, he only gave up 2 hits, 1 run, and 2 strikeouts. He was reportedly sitting 85-87 mph, with a great changeup. Rule 5 pick, and rehabbing righty, Brad Meyers relieved Pettitte and was terrible, going only 1.2 innings and giving up 8 hits, 8 runs, with no strikeouts. Zachary Nuding got the last 3 innings, and was spectacular, only giving up a hit and a walk, with 6 strikeouts. Offensively, Kelvin Castro went 2 for 4 and Neil Medchill went 3 for 4 with a homerun. Tampa lost to Clearwater 9-6. (Box Score)
  • Scottie Allen got his first start of the year for Charleston, and went 4.0 innings, giving up 6 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts. Offensively, Anderson Feliz had the only multi-hit game, going 2 for 5. Gary Sanchez doubled and drew 2 walks, while Cito Culver got his first hit of the year along with 2 walks as well. It was the first loss of the year as Charleston went down 7-4 to Augusta. (Box Score)
  • Brad V has picked apart the numbers for Teixeira, Rodriguez, and Granderson, and how well they’ve hit pulling and hitting the ball to the opposite field.
  • The Trenton Thunder have placed Graham Stoneburner on the disabled list already. He’ll be staying in Trenton to rehab a stiff right groin, which doesn’t appear to be a huge injury. Still, Stoneburner has enough upside that you want to see him make every start possible.

Yankee Top Ten Relief Prospects (Part 2)

As I’ve said before, the Yankees have been the best organization at developing relief pitchers over the last decade. With all these top prospect lists heading our way, I rarely see much loving handed out to the relief pitchers, so I figured we could focus on an impressive group of guys that could become the team’s future. Who knows, one of these guys might be the next Mariano Rivera. While guys like Dellin Betances might ultimately become relievers, this list is for players that currently project out of the bullpen. While closeness to the majors was a factor, upside was primary, which pushed LOOGYs and many older AAA relievers off this list. Without further ado, the top 5 relief prospects.

Tommy Kahnle (J.S. Carras/The Record)

5. RHP- Thomas Kahnle (22)
The fifth round pick in the 2010 draft had a spectacular 16 innings in his debut season, sporting a 14.1 K/9, 1.7 H/9, and 2.8 BB/9 in low A. He maintained decent numbers with strikeouts and hits, 12.4 K/9, and a more realistic 7.7 H/9, but struggled with his command, 5.4 BB/9. His command issues in 2011 were largely from trouble developing his slider, but Kahnle’s best pitch is his mid 90’s fastball that can reach 97-98. Though his 4.22 ERA In 2011 may deter many critics, he suffered from high BABIP, a low LOB%, and held a FIP at 2.45. I am not deterred by Kahnle’s gaudy ERA, and a solid season in high A/AA could move him up this list quickly.

4. RHP- Philip Wetherell (22)
Perhaps I like him more than most, but I was impressed with his 2011 debut. After being drafted 8th in the 2011 draft, Wetherell spent his season in low A sporting a 4.5 BB/9, and 6.9 H/9. Most impressively, his 12.3 K/9 led him to a 2.40 ERA and 3.03 FIP through 30 IP. His splitter is a potential plus pitch, and his low 90’s fastball has enough downward movement to combine to induce a 52% groundball rate. Any pitcher with a tendency to draw groundballs and strikeouts has huge potential, and at 6’5”, his pitches could develop even more velocity and break. Wetherell’s biggest issue is his command, and after posting a 4.5 BB/9, he needs to focus on a smoother delivery for his size.

3. RHP- Graham Stoneburner (24)
He doesn’t have much experience relieving, and after an injury plagued 2011, the righty will continue to see time starting, but his future is in the bullpen. Stoneburner stood out in 2010 when he posted a 0.993 WHIP through A and high A. Along with neck issues, he struggled missing bats in AA, with an 11.1 H/9 over 58.1 IP. Regardless, he has a potential plus sinker and slider, and above average changeup. He was a non-roster invitee this year, and perhaps the closest player to the majors on this list, which certainly helps his placement.

Branden Pinder

2. RHP- Branden Pinder (23)
Pinder was one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 draft. As a starter in college, his fastball sat at 90 mph and he threw a mediocre slider, but when he debuted out of the bullpen, he sat mid 90’s with a plus slider. Not bad for a 16th round pick. He served as the closer for Staten Island, putting up an incredible 11.0 K/9, 1.5 B/9, 1.16 ERA, a 0.667 WHIP, and 1.94 FIP through 31.0 IP. While the majority of college pitchers have good seasons in low ball, Pinder absolutely dominated it with his strikeout rate and unbelievable command, ranking 19th on Baseball America’s New York-Penn League top prospects. 2012 could be a huge season for him if he can carry on similar numbers in high A.

1. RHP- Mark Montgomery (21)
He was my sleeper for 2012 yesterday, but this is my list and now I can take away his sleeper status. Montgomery was filthy in his debut season, proving to be one of the best picks of the 2011 draft. The right hander showed off a major league ready slider in low A, striking out the side three times in a row. 4 IP was enough for the organization to promote him for Charleston. In his first game he struck out not three, but five batters in one innings. He finished the season as the closer with 51 strikeouts through 28.1 IP, good for 16.2 K/9 rate and a 6.4 H/9. His biggest problem was a 4.1 BB/9 rate, which is easily forgotten behind a 1.31 FIP at A ball. Though Pinder has stronger command, Montgomery performed at a higher level almost two years younger. Pinder might be more complete with a stronger fastball and command, but Montgomery’s slider is one of the best in the minors which means he has the most upside of any reliever in the system.


Just missing the list was AAA closer Kevin Whelan (28), George Kontos (26), and Tim Norton (28). While all three had successful seasons, their age was a huge deterrent when you consider primarily upside. Comparing one of these older players to the 21 year old Mark Montgomery is like comparing Jorge Vazquez to Gary Sanchez. Many relievers are late bloomers, but plenty of others peak in their upper 20’s. The Yankees take an aggressive stance with their relief prospects, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see later prospects make their way to the top next year.

In case you missed part one of the top 10 this afternoon, you can read it here.

2011 Yankee Second And Third-Tier Prospects Much Better Than 4 Years Ago

Former Yankee prospect Jose Tabata

4 years ago, the Yankee farm system was enjoying its first revival in half a decade. After years of terrible drafts and an overall barren system, the Yankees managed to very quickly add to the top of their farm system and become one of the best organizations in baseball, at least temporarily. I decided to go back and look at my January 2007 top prospect list and compare what we saw then to what we saw today.

The Top Tier – Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, Jose Tabata, Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances.

The 2007 system was built upon a very strong top tier. Phil Hughes was the top pitching prospect in the game, and Joba was throwing 100 mph fastballs, while Ian Kennedy was actually pitching better than both of them. Jose Tabata was garnering (ill-conceived, as I pointed out at the time) Manny Ramirez comparisons, and Montero and Betances represented exciting young high-ceiling prospects. Today’s top tier of the Killer B’s, Sanchez and Montero are a stronger group than that top tier, although the Killer B’s do not measure up to the Big Three in terms of pitching ability. But overall, it was a pretty comparable group of prospects.

The Middle Tier – Tyler Clippard, Humberto Sanchez, Austin Jackson, J.B. Cox, Eric Duncan, Jeff Marquez, and Brett Gardner.

Here’s where we start to see the difference. Three useful MLB players developed out of that group, which has to be considered a resounding success for the New York Yankee organization. That said, they were solid prospects, but the group of Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, Ivan Nova, Slade Heathcott, Austin Romine, Mason Williams, Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, Brandon Laird and David Adams are absolutely better prospects than the 2007 middle tier. If history is any guide, we can expect 3-4 legitimate MLB ball players out of this group, if not more.

The Bottom Tier – T.J. Beam, Kevin Whelan, Angel Reyes, Cody Ehlers, Tim Battle, Bronson Sardinha, Mitch Hilligoss, Colin Curtis, Alan Horne and David Robertson

This is where there 2007 system gets really weak in comparison. David Robertson at the time was recently drafted, and I placed on him on list on a bit of a hunch. Colin Curtis looks like an MLB replacement player. But besides a few MLB appearances out of Beam and Sardinha, this list is a whole lot of bust. Every prospect was either dramatically flawed or had a very low ceiling. Compare it to the Yankee bottom tier of guys like Jose Ramirez, Cito Culver, David Phelps, Melky MesaJ.R. Murphy, Eduardo Nunez, and Bryan Mitchell, etc and you see a big difference. The Yankees carry significant upside in 2011 even in the bottom tier. Many of the new players do have their flaws, but as a whole the group is much, much better than 2007, which still managed to produce a MLB player. I don’t think its outrageous to project 2 or so MLB players to come out of the tier.

The point of this exercise is that the Yankee farm system is incredibly deep right now. The top prospects are more advanced, and the lower prospects are more promising. Yet, the 2007 system produced MLB players in Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Tyler Clippard, Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, and David Robertson, plus Montero and Betances waiting in the wings. Some of that success may have been luck, but I really believe that the Yankees have a very strong set of players about to become MLB ballplayers; more players than people expect. Imagine a team with, say, Montero, Banuelos, Brackman, Nova, Warren, Noesi, Mesa, and Romine all promoted to the majors and playing well? Given the 2007 system’s record, I don’t think that is all that unlikely.

Imagining Trades, Part Two

Yesterday, I posted a piece musing on whether or not Mark Buehrle and/or Chris Carpenter would be come available during the season and whether or not the Yankees should be interested in trading for either one. For the purpose of this post, let’s assume they both are available and the Yankees are interested in trading for both (but would, obviously, only trade for one).

With help from Larry, I ran over to BTBS and looked up the trade value calculator, which is really fun to play with. I used Cot’s to get each player’s salary data, and used CAIRO projections and the WAR spreadsheet to calculate the pertinent WAR data.

The trade calculator asks us to put in salary and WAR data, and we’ll start with Carpenter. In 2011, Carpenter is scheduled to make $15M. He also has an option for 2012 that would pay him $15M as well. For the first iteration of Carpenter’s trade value, I assumed the option would not be picked up, so it’s a one year deal. He’s projected by CAIRO to pitch 175 innings at a 3.69 FIP. Punching those numbers into the calculator gives us exactly $8M of trade value, if we assume Carpenter is a Type-A free agent. If he’s a Type-B, he takes a hit down to only $5.5M of trade value. I’m not an expert, but I’d assume Carpenter will be a Type-A at season’s end.

Of course, that WAR projection and the value associated with it represents a whole season of Carpenter. Let’s assume they trade for him halfway through the year. We’ll cut his innings in half, since that’s (theoretically) what he’d pitch with the Yankees. 87.5 innings of 3.69 FIP gives us 1.9 WAR. We’ll also cut Carpenter’s salary in half to $7.5M. With this projection, we get $6.5M of value if he’s a Type-A.

There is no language I can find on Cot’s that says Carpenter’s option is guaranteed if he’s traded, so I’m not going to factor that in; I doubt the Yankees would pick up his option anyway. So where does this leave us? If the Yankees do, in fact, trade for Carpenter mid-season, that’s $6.5M of value. What exactly does that mean in terms of what the Yankees would have to give up? Let’s go to Minor League Ball to find out. Given the information in that post, we see $6.5M matches up perfectly with “Grade-B” pitchers. If we take a look at John Sickels’ prospect grades for the Yankees, he has Manny Banuelos and Hector Noesi as exactly Grade B pitchers. Dellin Betances came in at B+ while Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner, and Andrew Brackman came in at B-. In theory, basically in the vacuum that is this trade calculator, half a season of Chris Carpenter could be had fairly with a one-for-one trade with one of those players. In reality, though, would any of us want to trade Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, or Dellin Betances for half a season of Chris Carpenter and (maybe) some draft picks? I don’t think so. For what it’s worth, I would definitely listen on Noesi, since his upside is the lowest of the pitchers mentioned above. Of course, that’s just one way we could reach the $6.5 number. The Yankees could get creative and do a package instead of a straight up swap.

The “guide,” so to speak says that Grade B hitters and Grade C pitchers under 22 would add up to $6.8M. The Yankees have Grade B (including B- and B+) hitters in Austin Romine (B-) and Slade Heathcott (B-) and Grade C pitchers under 22 in Jose Ramirez (C+) and Brett Marshall (C+). Again, in our vacuum, the Yankees could pair two of those guys and land Carpenter. This seems like something the Yankees could be more willing to do, since these guys are farther off than the ones mentioned above and don’t have the same upside.

Will Chris Carpenter be available? Who knows? Will the Yankees be in on him? Who knows? This is all very far off, considering we’re still a week away from our first Spring Training game. I just thought it would be worthwhile to run some scenarios through the trade calculator to see what quantities could change hands if a trade does go down. Check back over the weekend (or on Monday depending on how many lessons I write this weekend) and I’ll do one of these for Mark Buehrle and his value.

Spring 2011 Top 30 Prospects With New Ratings

Yesterday, I announced a new prospect rating system that I wanted to use to rank Yankee prospects. There are significant changes from my list half a year ago, mostly because the rating system forced me to more logically think out the rankings, but also because some offseason news changed my opinions slightly.

To refresh: the numerical rating is called the Talent Rating, and it stands for a player’s reasonable ceiling. The letter rating is called the Risk Rating, and it stands for how likely they are to become MLB regulars at that Talent Rating. Full details are at the link above.

I would like to reiterate: I received a lot of questions about what the rating system represents on twitter yesterday. They are entirely qualitative – that is, they represent my opinion about the prospects. I tried to be consistent – for example, all young pitchers without a full season of pitching were rated High risk of injury, and the distance ratings roughly correspond with minor league level – but some of my own bias did turn up. I’ve been doing this prospect blogging thing for five years now, so my gut and hunches absolutely play a role. What the system is intended to do is to more clearly define what my opinion about a prospect is. Matt and Sean and others here have internally discussed ways to systematize it, but that involves a lot of math which I’m not particularly good at.

Here’s the list:

Remember that with any list, a lot of prospects are interchangeable. Graham Stoneburner is sitting at #14 with a 7.0D, and JR Murphy is at #21 with the exact same score. That should be a signal that everyone in between is relatively equal in terms of value. The rough tiers are 1-5, 6-13, 14-22, and 23-30. Jeremy Bleich just missed at 31, along with roughly 15 honorable mentions that I ranked. When it comes time to preview individual minor league clubs, those players will show up.

I don’t want to speak too much about individual players, though I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments section.

Thoughts? Is the system worth keeping?

Update – A lot of people have asked about how I rate injury risk. like anything else qualitative, the end result is just my opinion about how likely the player is to suffer a career-threatening injury. However, I tried to be very consistent with the criteria I used. For example, I rated all the young pitchers who have yet to pitch a full season as High, but all the young position players in similar spots as Moderate. That’s a preference, but I think it holds up to history.

I rated guys like Brett Marshall and David Adams as High risk, because they have both recently suffered very severe injuries, and I want to see them play significant time without hitting the disabled list.

The low risk ratings went to older guys who had either held up after multiple full seasons, or had pitched quite a few innings in the past two seasons.

I hope that clears things up.

Projecting the 2011 Minor League Rotations

With the off season winding down, I figure that it is about time to see where everybody is going to wind up. The Yankees manage to emerge from a slow post-2011 off season while hanging on to all of their top pitching prospects. I have prepared this graphic in order to attempt to project where they will all end up.

[image title=”2011 Yankee rotations” size=”full” id=”24896″ align=”center” linkto=”full” ]

Brian Cashman wasn’t kidding when he said that our upper minor league rotations are full. The Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees and Double-A Trenton Thunder will have, by some measures, 10 prospects to fill 10 rotation spots. Craig Heyer and Shaeffer Hall are certainly the runts of the group, but they are a big improvement on the years when these kinds of guys took those spots. There is some downside to that of course – players won’t really be able to move up to a higher level in the middle of the season without an injury clearing the way. And of course, an injury means that a valuable prospect just went down. Last season saw guys like Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos make unexpectedly quick rises through the minor leagues. That won’t be as easy for Brett Marshall and Jose Ramirez, and it could keep a strongly performing Graham Stoneburner stuck at Double-A. Plus, if Nova gets bumped down to the minors, it throws the whole system into disarray. Still, that’s not a bad problem to have.

Scranton gets to start off with Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi and David Phelps. Each has their own little test. Brackman has to continue to pitch within his mechanics like he did last year, since this is his last year with any options. David Phelps has to prove that his stuff plays to advanced hitters. Hector Noesi has a similar story – he needs to show whether or not his control of the strike zone holds up as he nears the majors. For Noesi, it will be about defining whether or not he can be a Major League innings eater or a serious impact starting pitcher. Adam Warren needs to follow up his standout performance at Trenton last season with another one, or start to face a possible bullpen conversion. D.J. Mitchell needs to learn to get lefties out, or he will be the first starting pitcher converted to the bullpen after Dellin Betances has a 15 strikeout game.

The story in Trenton is no doubt about Banuelos and Betances. Betances needs to stay healthy. He hasn’t had a truly healthy season since 2008, and smart watchers are very concerned that he’ll continue to be brittle. Height issues aside, Banuelos has none of those concerns. We’ll be looking for him to reestablish the amazing velocity he showcased last season, and continue to put up eye-popping numbers. Graham Stoneburner both has to follow up a phenomenal breakout season and deal with the struggle of being overshadowed by some many prospects above him. No matter how well he does, Stoneburner will probably not budge from the Trenton rotation all year. Too many guys are ahead of him. Heyer and Hall aren’t great prospects, but Heyer did pull off a 0.6 BB/9 last year, so who knows. Maybe he’s pretty good.

Brett Marshall could make Tampa very exciting this year. He’s a better prospect than people realize, and certainly made an impression after coming back from surgery last season. His challenge will be to strike out more batters with his 95-97 mph fastball, since he has averaged just 7.0 K/9 in 3 minor league seasons. Jose Ramirez joins him in the underrated category, and a strong performance could see him competing with Marshall to bump one of Hall or Heyer from Trenton. Jairo Heredia is still seeking redemption behind them, but hasn’t recovered well from shoulder issues. Sean Black may be the next David Phelps, but I know nothing about Kelvin Perez.

In Charleston, we’re searching for a breakout. Bryan Mitchell is one of the bigger sleepers in the organization. He profiles a lot like Brett Marshall, with wild, untamed flamethrowing stuff and at times a killer curveball. Varce and Burawa are experienced college arms who could climb up the ladder quickly, and both Richardson and O’Brien have some potential to be decent. Its a solid bunch, even if none have become all that exciting yet. However, a strong performance could put any of them on the map as future MLB prospects, especially Mitchell.

Of course, these are just projections. Adam Warren could be bumped from the Scranton rotation in favor of a veteran (one of Colon or Garcia perhaps) or Ivan Nova. On the lower end, the Yankees could push experienced players like Zach Varce or Daniel Burawa to Tampa, while cutting either Jairo Heredia or Kelvin Perez. One of the EST starters could impress in spring training and start in Charleston. Burawa could also be one of several to be converted to relief pitching along with D.J. Mitchell and Taylor Morton.

Which rotation is the most interesting to pay attention to? Obviously, its a contest between Trenton and Scranton, though Marshall and Ramirez could make some noise down in Tampa. Scranton has 5 legitimate prospects, while Trenton is kind of dragging along their bottom two. Still, I go with Trenton, where Betances and Banuelos will put on a show two days out of every 5.

Looking at Graham Stoneburner

Graham Stoneburner, Right-handeed Starting Pitcher
Ranked Sixth Best Yankee Prospect

Year Age Tm Lg Lev ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2009 21 Staten Island NYPL A- 0.00 1 0 1.0 1 0 0 0 0 2 1.000 9.0 0.0 0.0 18.0
2010 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-A 2.41 26 26 142.0 107 46 38 6 34 137 0.993 6.8 0.4 2.2 8.7 4.03
2010 22 Charleston SALL A 2.08 7 7 39.0 27 11 9 2 10 44 0.949 6.2 0.5 2.3 10.2 4.40
2010 22 Tampa FLOR A+ 2.53 19 19 103.0 80 35 29 4 24 93 1.010 7.0 0.3 2.1 8.1 3.88
2 Seasons 2.39 27 26 143.0 108 46 38 6 34 139 0.993 6.8 0.4 2.1 8.7 4.09
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/11/2010.

Graham Stoneburner is a much better prospect than people realize. He throws a 93-96 mph 2-seam fastball with strong sinking action. Better yet, he throws smoothly and easily, a great sign for his future consistency and health. Seriously, watch the video. He has recently improved his slider, and its now an effective secondary pitch for him. He also throws a changeup. He has great control. The biggest question for Stoneburner after he was drafted was whether or not he would develop enough of a breaking ball to start. He accomplished that in 2010, and he looks like a starter long term.

Stoneburner had a great 2010 season. In addition to the statistics listed above, he had a 1.72 GO/AO ratio. It is difficult to assess how we should regard his competition relative to his experience level. Stoneburner was 22 years old, but had only 2 years of college experience under his belt, and also didn’t pitch his senior year in high school due to an ACL injury. In college, he did not start full time, although he did pitch for a top-level program at Clemson. I think we can comfortably say that Stoneburner had a lot of polish but not a lot of experience heading into this year. High-A was right around where he should have been, and he dominated the level.

You can’t teach 95. You really can’t teach 95 with sink. That’s Stoneburner. He throws a great fastball for strikes, has a strong breaking pitch, and potentially has even more room for improvement. Furthermore, he has no health concerns, and actually looks like a guy who should stay pretty healthy. I rated him the 6th best prospect in the Yankee system, ahead of Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances, mostly out of health concerns for the latter two. It is something often underrated when looking at young, talented pitchers. Poor health is the #1 killer of a pitching prospect.

Next season, Stoneburner will begin at Double-A. He’ll join a very talented rotation that should include Manuel Banuelos, Dellin Betances and possibly Adam Warren. He probably will spend the entire season there. All three of them will probably have a higher priority for promotion to Triple-A than Stoneburner, and the Triple-A rotation will already be very crowded. The Yankees have no reason to rush him, no matter how strong his arm is.

Power ground ball guys with control have a ton of potential in the majors. Pick your favorite example – Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Brandon Webb, Chien-Ming Wang – and you won’t find stuff all that different from what Stoneburner throws. And he has the potential to be a solid strikeout pitcher to go with the sinker. That’s something right there. The Yankees found their diamond in the rough.

Fall 2010 Top 30 Yankee Prospects Ranking

Its been a really good season for the Yankees down in the minors. Below is my top-30 Yankee prospects. Though I should say this: there are a lot more guys in the system. I strongly considered expanding the list to 40 or 50 players, which the Yankees could easily justify. I decided to hold back for a number of reasons. As always, I tend to value certainty over uncertainty and performance over raw talent. The level listed after their names is where I project them for next season. The list:

1. C Jesus Montero, AAA/MLB – Really, he should be on the Yankees next year. His second half was as good as it gets. We’ll see.
2. LHP Manuel Banuelos, AA – He went from a polished young lefty to a flame-throwing potential ace.
3. C Austin Romine, AAA – More worried about the lack of defensive growth than his poor hitting season.
4. RHP Hector Noesi AAA – Better than people think. Also pretty close to a sure thing.
5. C Gary Sanchez A- – The next Montero, but with less body-type defensive questions.
6. RHP Graham Stoneburner AA – Blasted on to the scene this year, couldn’t have asked for better.
7. RHP Andrew Brackman AAA/AA – Went from having terrible control to having really good control in 2010. On track for a 2011 MLB appearance.
8. RHP Ivan Nova AAA/MLB – Could start on a lot of teams, maybe the Yankees. At the very least, he should be a good reliever.
9. RHP Dellin Betances AA – Still skeptical, but you can’t argue with his potential ceiling. Frank Piliere’s comments were pretty glowing.
10. OF Slade Heathcott A+ – Held his own. He’s a project, so we shouldn’t expect immediate gains. Next step: power.
11. RHP Adam Warren AA – His reported velocity has been a bit inflated, but his AA numbers were pretty awesome too.
12. 2b David Adams AAA – He’d be higher if not for the injury. Excellent trade bait, since we have Cano.
13. RHP Jose Ramirez A+ – Got leapfrogged by other players in 2010, but he’s still a great prospect.
14. SS Cito Culver A- – Great reviews on defense, held his own on hitting. Now the real work starts.
15. 3b Robert Segedin A+ – Fell to us due to injury concerns. Fell to #15 due to injury concerns. If he’s healthy, he’s top-5.
16. CF Mason Williams A- – Don’t know a lot about him, but he sounds like Brett Gardner with more tools. The bonus justifies this spot.
17. 3b/1b Brandon Laird AAA – Not too confident that he can be a starter in the AL East, but he should be a useful little piece as soon as mid-2011.
18. RHP Bryan Mitchell A- – Lots and lots of raw stuff. The Yankees love him.
19. RHP David Phelps AAA/MLB – Starter for the Pirates?
20. OF Angelo Gumbs A- – Highly rated, but raw. We’ll see.
21. OF Melky Mesa AA – Still skeptical, but if the breakout is real, then he could be a top-flight prospect. Rule V protection?
22. C JR Murphy A+ – Disappointing season.
23. RHP Brett Marshall A+ – Came back looking great. If he stays healthy, he’s a top starter prospect.
24. RHP D.J. Mitchell AAA – Just can’t get lefties out. Reliever?
25. 2b Corban Joseph AA – Underrated, but didn’t do so well in an extended AA audition.
26. RHP Lance Pendleton AAA/MLB – Was my pick for dark horse of the year. 154 2/3 innings, 2.33 K/BB, 3.61 ERA. Rule V protection?
27. LHP Evan Rutckyj A- – Super interesting super project. But he’s both really talented and a lefty.
28. RHP Gabe Encinas A- – Super interesting more polished project. Not left handed.
29. OF Colin Curtis AAA/MLB – MLB 4th/5th outfielder. Just like everyone said when he was drafted. Decent AAA season, deserves a look in spring training.
30. LHP Jeremy Bleich AA – We’ll talk after he recovers from surgery.

Honorable Mentions: George Kontos, Fu-Lin Kuo, Zoilo Almonte, Caleb Cotham, Eduardo Nunez, Eduardo Sosa, Jairo Heredia, Matt Richardson, Manny Barreda, Evan DeLuca, Ryan Pope, Pat Venditte, Anderson Feliz, Brad Suttle

There’s a lot to say about this group of players, and you can rest assured that I will say a lot of things. My current plan (if life allows) is to do a full array of prospect profiles, though I may leave a few of the less interesting players out. Who am I most intrigued by, relative to the buzz out there? Evan Rutckyj, Brett Marshall, Graham Stoneburner, and Rob Segedin really get my brain going.

What do you all think?

Five More Things I Learned In Three Months

Continuing with Monday’s post, I am reviewing things that surprised me while away for three months. The first five items on Monday dealt with players more established in the system. Now, its time for the fresh out of the box surprises.

6. Adam Warren is the real deal.

I’ve been witness to enough Staten Island flash in the pans to be pretty skeptical when someone like Adam Warren comes along and flashes a 1.43 ERA in 56 innings. Weird things happen in a short season, especially when the league is made up mostly of new draftees who are learning how to hit with wooden bats. But Warren did have a pretty impressive season (7.9 K/9, 1.6 BB/9) after being picked in the 3rd round, so he hit all of our radars.

When I left, Warren was enjoying a pretty good season down in High-A Tampa. Before moving up, he pitched 81 innings with an ERA of 2.22, a K/9 of 7.4, and a BB/9 of 1.9. Since his Double-A promotion though, he has dramatically boosted his performance to 10.9 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 50 innings, including a record-breaking 15 K performance.

Now, all is not perfect for Warren. After throwing 94-95 consistently for Staten Island, he has settled back into his expected 91-93 mph range with the fastball. He throws a lot of pitches, and for that reason has generally failed to put up large innings totals. He has pitched just 5.45 innings per start.

Warren is another enigma that is worth taking another look at. He’s excelled beyond where his four years of high-level college experience provide him an advantage, and has the stuff to be a major league starter. He’s not a top-10 prospect, but he’s not a flash in the pan either. He’s one hell of a pick for Damon Oppenheimer and his team.

7. Gary Sanchez is Jesus Montero’s younger brother.

Sanchez will forever be compared to Jesus Montero. Both received huge bonuses (Sanches received 3 million dollars) at the age of 16 out of Latin America. Both are catchers with defensive shortcomings, and both are have phenomenal hitting potential.

Montero, like Sanchez, debuted at age 17 in the Gulf Coast League a year after signing. Unlike Sanchez, Montero’s greatness was mostly confined to scouting reports. We got really excited because scouts were telling us that Montero had a game-changing bat, and he wet our lips enough by hitting .280/.366/.421. He didn’t have a lot of power, and the Yankees almost immediately began to radically change the mechanics of his swing.

Sanchez debuted at the age of 17 in the Gulf Coast league this summer, and did things very differently. He hit .353/.419/.597 with 6 home runs and 11 doubles in 136 plate appearances for the GCL Yankees, and even earned a short promotion to Staten Island to face tougher competition. Where Montero started out walking slow and steadily quickened his pace, Sanches hit the ground running.

31 games in rookie ball carry with them a lot of sample size caveats, but the news is still good. Gary Sanchez is ahead of where Jesus Montero was at this point in his minor league career. Like Montero, he has a lot of defensive work to do, but unlike Montero he carries no athleticism or size criticisms related to his long term ability to play catcher. Folks, with a little luck we’ve got another top-20 prospect in all of baseball on our hands. Check in this time next year to see.

8. The Yankees came ready to spend in the 2010 draft

A lot of us were a little perplexed by the Yankees choice of Cito Culver in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. He signed for under slot money, and immediately started playing in the minors. The next two and a half months saw the team sign 15 of their top 16 picks, including a whole bunch of expensive signability picks.

The team spent over slot money to sign picks in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 9th, 10th, and 16th rounds. All but one of those picks (3rd rounder Robert Segedin) are highly talented high school players who are probably ticketed for Charleston next year. Along with Gary Sanchez and a few others, they will form a tight, interesting group of players to watch as they climb the ladder together. Make no mistake, the Yankees made a huge investment in this group, and it should at least in part pay off big time.

Eric wrote a great write up of the group here.

Continue reading Five More Things I Learned In Three Months