Saturday, January 5, 2008
Those That Missed The Cut Pt. 1
The following is a brief rundown on the prospects THAT did not make my Top 25. Questions, comments, and criticism are welcome. I’m going to attempt to have the Top 25 done by the time ST rolls around, but…no guarantees. The following list isn’t in any specific order. Ages listed are “baseball ages” for the 2008 season.
Eric Duncan, 1B, 23 In Duncan’s time in the Yankee minor league system I have ranked him as the 3rd (‘04), 1st (‘05), 2nd (‘06), and 10th (‘07) best prospect in the organization. While Duncan’s high initial rankings were due in part to the Yankee system being terrible, I think that knowing what I know now, I would not have ranked him as high. 2007 was the same old story for Eric. He drew a good amount of walks and didn’t strike out too much, but an inability to hit for average killed his overall numbers: .241/.323/.389. I’m at the point where I don’t believe Duncan will ever learn to do that and his power, on base skills, and defense aren’t strong enough to make him worthwhile unless he can his average up a lot. The Yankees seem to have soured on Eric as well, leaving him unprotected for the Rule V draft, where no one picked him up. It can no longer be said that “Duncan is so young, players his age are normally in [insert favorable minor league level here]” and being what he is, a “slugger” who has trouble providing offensive value due to an inability to turn quality ABs into quality outcomes, I could not leave him in my top 25.
Chris Garcia, RHP, 22 If he can somehow get healthy and stay that way, Garcia has the ability to make me look stupid for leaving him off. However, having missed time due to TJ surgery and then a knee injury while rehabbing, which followed a ‘06 where he also struggled with injuries…I’m beginning to think Garcia just won’t stay healthy enough for long enough to show why some talent evaluators felt he had more ability than Phil Hughes.
J.B. Cox, RHP, 24 Cox could also make me look foolish, but in my defense, he was one of the last guys cut. I’m confident that he will be back to some level of “normal” this year, but a guy coming off an injury whose projected future ML role is 7th inning guy didn’t strike me as someone I wanted in the top 25.
Tim Norton, RHP, 25 This one really hurts. Norton had filthy stuff. Great low to mid 90s fastball and developing splitter. While the Yankees were using him as a starter, he seemed destined for the bullpen as a shutdown reliever. Unfortunately, 5 starts into his ‘07 he had to undergo shoulder surgery, which is not something I tend to be forgiving with.
Brett Gardner, OF, 24 I think this is the one I’m going to get the most hate for, but…I just don’t see it. I’ve gone over his stat lines numerous times, I’ve seen him play, and I just don’t get the Brett Gardner love. Last year I said he could be “the player that everyone thinks Scott Podsednik is” in ranking him 16th and now I think he might just be the real Scott Podsednik. He is not Jacoby Ellsbury. Brett MAY be just as fast and while they may provide equivalent baserunning value, that’s about the only area where they are comparable. Instead of making him a standout defender, Brett’s speed helps him to be a good one due to his making his share of poor reads on the ball. In addition, at the plate, while Jacoby is never going to hit for much power, he has far more than Brett and that is going to help Jacoby’s skills translate to the major league level. Brett walks a good amount now, but major league pitchers are going to knock the bat out of his hands rather than walk him. He also strikes out way more than a player of his skill set should, but has made progress in that regard. Overall, Brett Gardner is REALLY fast and may one day use that to turn into a 5th OF or something, but that’s not enough.
Steven Jackson, RHP, 26 Jackson is a sinkerballer who gets his share of groundballs, but makes far too many mistakes, leading to an elevated home run rate. Outside of his sinker, 88-92, Jackson didn’t demonstrate much in the way of secondary pitches. He’s looking like a one pitch guy, which eliminates him from being a starter long term, and his one pitch isn’t dominant enough to make him a great reliever, at this point.
Alberto Gonzalez, SS, 25 I really like Alberto Gonzalez. It was really tough for me cut a guy from the top 25 who I believe is a really good defender with a developing bat. For the Yankees he could be one of the league’s best backup infielders and on another club he may be a league average SS. I believe that whatever the Yankees did to Gonzalez when he was demoted to AA, it worked because he has been a very different player since then, making a huge cut in his K rate while upping his walk rate. This lasted through his AA time, his return to AAA, and is now carrying over in the winter leagues. Of course, if that improvement isn’t real he’s just a good glove who can’t hit and that’s not worth much.
Steven White, RHP, 27 White has a good fastball, in the low 90s, but it’s not a great fastball. He has decent, if inconsistent, secondary pitches. His control isn’t great. I think he could be Luis Vizcaino, a serviceable reliever, but not much else. He has no long term future starting.
Colin Curtis, OF, 23 Curtis looks like Brett Gardner without the speed. I wanted to believe there was more there last year, but it seems the scouts were correct in writing him off as a ‘tweener. He has time to change this evaluation, but it’s always scary when a guy who lacks power is promoted and proceeds to see good offensive numbers turn into terrible ones due to an increase in strikeouts and decrease in walks.
Chase Wright, LHP, 25 Wright has an average fastball and slightly above average change, but his control and command of all his non-change pitches leaves a lot to be desired. As a result, he is consistently behind in the count and this leads to predictable pitching sequences, which could one day lead to him doing something historic, like giving up a lot of homers in a row or something. The lack of command and control also makes Wright a less than ideal candidate for a bullpen role, so he doesn’t seem to have much of a big league future unless he can learn to command his very average stuff.
Kevin Whelan, RHP, 24 Thanks to a pretty good fastball and splitter combo, Whelan will always have supporters. Unfortunately, his control left him too frequently last year for him to put up the numbers he could/should have. I do wonder how his numbers would have looked if he were limited to just 1 innings more frequently. He’s a guy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see jump back on to the 25 next year.
*To Be Continued*
Monday, October 15, 2007
It’s been a while…
2007 Minor League Pitcher of the Year
This one is a tie between Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy. Joba’s performance was more impressive on a rate basis, but Kennedy gets extra credit for the larger body of work. To be fair to Joba, he would have had more innings had he not been so awesome that he was called up with a month to go in the minor league season.
2007 Minor League Hitter of the Year
Austin Jackson wins in what was not much of a competition. Despite a poor statistical performance at Charleston, Jackson was hitting the ball hard in games I listened, but just right at people. He then went to the FSL and raked. After a slow start in Hawaii, he is raking again.
2007 Minor League All Star Team
C Francisco Cervelli
1B Juan Miranda
2B Prilys Cuello
3B Brandon Laird
SS Reegie Corona
OF Austin Jackson
OF Jose Tabata
OF Justin Snyder
LHP Michael Dunn
Alan Horne’s Bullpen Candidacy:
As mentioned in a thread earlier today, I’m not sure Horne would be a good candidate for the bullpen. He has the fastball as well as groundball and strikeout tendencies I like to see in a potential reliever, but there are two things that make me think he might not transition well to such a role. First is that his game is based around having one very good pitch, his fastball, and several solid pitches, his curve, change, and slider. Anecdotally, it seems most shut down relievers live off of two really good pitches. In addition, it has been said that something that gets Horne into trouble from time to time is his arm action as it is not ideal. If that problem exists, one would expect it to cause the most issues when he first gets in the game and, tellingly, Horne’s first inning walk rate this year was 5.4 per 9. His walk rate for the rest of the game was about 3 per 9. Take this information with a grain of salt, but it seems to make sense given the available qualitative information.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
The Hughes Report (9/6/07)
The difference in his performance tonight was that he did a better job of mixing his pitches. We actually saw the fastball, curveball, AND change. On the downside, Phil is still throwing too many fat pitches when he needs to get one over. If you’re down in the count, yeah, you need to throw a strike, but it can’t be a fat one because those get hit hard. And now, on to the velocity report.
Velocity Drop: Following the 4th inning
-John Sickels’ thoughts on Ian Kennedy: http://www.minorleagueball.com/story/2007/9/5/12490/10875#commenttop
-Good Reading: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/minors/features/264668.html
-P.S.: How about that A-Rod guy?
Monday, September 3, 2007
Ian Kennedy’s Debut
The Good: Kennedy’s velocity was a bit better than the “high 80s” thrown around by some in the prospect analysis community. In actuality, the range on his fastball was 87-92, which is more in line with the reports from Pinstripes Plus than anywhere else, so kudos to Patrick, Frankie, and the rest of the guys over there. The average velocity of the 54 fastballs thrown was 90.5. In addition to showcasing solid-good velocity, Kennedy had great fastball command. The home plate ump was a bit inconsistent, on both sides, but Kennedy did a great job of hitting the corners with his fastball.
Ian also showed flashes with his Vulcan change. The movement to the pitch was a bit funky because he places the ball between his middle and ring finger, forming the V for Vulcan. This was the pitch that he was able to fool left-handers with. Overall, he did a good job with this pitch.
The Bad: Kennedy also flashed his slider, curveball, and sinker on Saturday. On this day, I would say the slider probably showed the most promise. Despite that, I don’t think any of these pitches looked especially great (Don, don’t kill me). While the pitches themselves showed promise, Kennedy left more than his fair share of them up in the zone, so his command wasn’t great with respect to this portion of his arsenal. Fortunately, the Devil Rays were not able to take advantage of this and he escaped largely unscathed.
The Verdict: I was very pleased with Kennedy’s debut and feel he showed enough to warrant another start. With Hughes’ current struggles, I wouldn’t mind if the Yankees kept the 5-man rotation in tact just to have a better idea of who has the hot hand heading into October between the two rookies. I think Hughes has more long-term potential, but if at the end of the month the Yankees are in the playoffs and Kennedy has performed superior, he should get the post-season nod.
-The minor league season is, essentially, over. Austin Jackson was promoted to AAA as a reward for his great year and Marcos Vechionacci to AA as a reward for his hot finish. Both players will, almost assuredly, start next year for Trenton. AA will have its best collection of position player talent in quite some time between those two and Jose Tabata.
-The GCL Yankees won their league championship for what seems like the 12th time in the last 4 years. Jesus Montero, who very quietly had a good season, killed the ball in a small playoff sample. He hit .280/.366/.421 in 107 regular season ABs and then went 6 for 16 with a double, 2 homers, 2 walks and 4 Ks. Just a very solid year for a guy some wanted to write off so soon after being regarded as the best prospect on the international market.
-On a final, “funny” note, here at RLYW and within the Yankee blogosphere we’re all worried about Phil Hughes’ velocity. Hughes has been pitching at 90-93, touching 94. Within these same communities, we’re also all pleased with Kennedy’s velocity during his first game where he was 89-92. Over in Red Sox land, everyone is in love with Clay Bucholz. Bucholz is sitting 90-93. I’m not going to ignore that more troubling than Hughes’ velocity range has been his tendency to tire quickly, but for those who are dismayed regarding Hughes’ overall velocity…please calm down. Now, if only he could regain some feel for the change, we wouldn’t even have to have this discussion.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
All Hughes, All The Time
*I have made no efforts to read this over and check for grammar or anything like that. I’m studying for the LSATs. I just moved. I’m in recovery from one of the worst migraines of my life. I have a new, super time consuming internship. Grammar sucks.*
My initial goal with this entry was to figure out what’s wrong with Phil Hughes. However, after going through his last 4 outings pitch by pitch, I can’t say that there is anything wrong with Phil Hughes. What he’s going through is typical of young pitchers, even immensely talented ones, making their first go round in the bigs. This much SG has attempted to illustrate.
For those that are concerned about his velocity, I’m not sure there’s any sense in worrying about it too much. While he was only 89-91 against Detroit, he has otherwise pitched consistently at 90-93 with the occasional 94 or 95 thrown in. The good is that that 90-93 is comprised primarily of 92+s in the early going. The bad is that he’s had trouble maintaining it for the entire game. That should hopefully come with time…or as soon as Clemens gets him on the workout. Hughes is also a guy that for all the glowing minor league reports, has had stretches where he wasn’t quite right mechanically and his velocity would dip into that upper 80-91 range. So, my hope is that what we saw in Detroit was due in part to that and it will be fixed before his next start. Maybe he can talk to Mo about that after he’s done running with Clemens.
Where I would worry about Hughes is pitch selection. I’ve noticed Hughes shaking off some pitches here and there, which tells me he is being allowed to take a role in calling his games. If he is, the Yankees need to stop that. If he isn’t, and the Yankee coaching staff is, then I’m worried about the Yankee coaching staff. Hughes has had 12-15 pitch sequences in games where he will throw 90% fastballs. This is fine and dandy when you’re Wang and throwing a mid 90s sinker or Joba and throwing upper 90s 4-seamers, but I’m not so sure how effective this is with a low 90s 4-seamer. I’ve never played organized baseball, so I might be off there.
Another strange thing about Hughes’ pitch selection is that he doesn’t tend to mix changes and curves within an inning. Going through the past 4 games it’s almost as if it is decided that in Inning X he will use the change as his off-speed pitch and in Inning Y it will be the curve and never shall there be a deviation. Once again, I don’t have the real baseball experience to say what’s going on here or what the thinking is, but I would assume that this is something the opposition has picked up on and it’s allowing them to have an easier time guessing. I’d be curious to see if someone (SG) could run the numbers and see how batters tend to hit against Hughes with 1 out, 2 outs, 3 outs as far as batted ball outcomes.
So, in conclusion, I’m hopeful Hughes will right himself and I also really hope the Yankees decide to mix up the pitch selection. Long-term, I’m still a Phil Hughes fan, but in the short term there may be some growing pains, which will be tough to deal with given that Phil is now one of the guys the team needs to count on.
-Austin Jackson is in the AFL. I hope he performs as well there as he has at Tampa. Look, no negativity, Don.
-Nice to see Marcos Vechionacci making the late season charge for a .700 OPS, which may be enough to get him to Trenton for the start of the ‘08 season.
Friday, August 17, 2007
-Baseball America has the scoop on Jose Tabata having surgery to remove his hamate bone. The Yankees expect him to begin rehab six weeks after the surgery and he might still have a shot at playing winter ball. This is, probably, the reason he’s struggled so much to hit for power. Don’t expect him to come back ripping the ball into the gaps and over the fences, it sometimes takes guys a while to get adjusted following this procedure.
-Christian Garcia pulled a Phil Hughes and injured his knee doing some running during his rehab from surgery. Nothing major, but it forces him out of participation in instructs, it seems.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The Yankees Lost a Series?
With the way the team has been playing for the past month and a half, a series loss comes as a shock. However, given that Jeff Karstens took the mound on Tuesday and that Baltimore put Erik Bedard on the mound on Wednesday, this was not so shocking.
Anyway, I was at the game yesterday and was surprised to find a lot of negativity regarding Hughes during the liveblog/game chatter when I came home. Now, my vantage point was from at an angle behind home plate, so I can’t comment on whether or not he was really missing the zone or just getting squeezed, but his raw stuff seemed pretty good yesterday. The curveball was terrific, he used his change sparsely for a couple easy fly balls, and his fastball seemed to be fine (90-93 for his entire outing, including the final frame). The only time the crowd really got on him was the play where he dropped the ball attempting to cover first. The hits he was giving up were, for the most part, very weak and/or helped by the defense. The one at bat where it seemed an Oriole hitter was really on his stuff was Millar’s final at bat where he hit rocket after rocket foul down the LF line. Hopefully, Hughes is better next time out, or at least gets better results.
-On the issue of velocity…while I noticed the velocity dip this year, I forgot that Carlos Gomez had attributed it to a change in his arm angle. While 90-93 is good enough, if you can maintain it, which he’s been steadily improving on, 92-95 would be, if nothing else, sexier.
-On the issue of fastball types…Hughes does throw both a 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, so sometimes when you see those 88s, it’s not fatigue it’s a 2-seamer.
-Edwar was very very good. I wonder if he’s going to have to wait 12 days to pitch again.
-Henn was very good as well. He’s struggled throwing strikes all year, but did a good job of that yesterday. He has good enough stuff from the left-side where if he just throws strikes, he’s going to be a very serviceable reliever. It’s just a question of whether his control will be there consistently.
-Marcos Vechionacci is closing out the year with a hot streak. This might be enough to get him promoted to Trenton to start ‘08. Unfortunately, his year has still been terribly disappointing. While it’s great that his glove continues to get rave reviews, at some point he’s going to have to start hitting. If this year didn’t kill his prospect status, one more year of not hitting will.
-Looks like the FSL has figured out Austin Jackson. He’s still had a nice year and made some real improvement, but perhaps not as much as it seemed when he was hitting everything a couple weeks ago.
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