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April Farm Report
2008-05-05 15:10
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Who knows if I'll ever do another of these, but for now, here's a stab at a new Banter feature: the monthly Farm Report. All stats are as of the morning of May 5. We'll take it team by team:

Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre

Major league fans have already seen most of Scranton's top April hurlers, including Darrell Rasner (0.87 ERA in five starts), Edwar Ramirez (13 Ks and zero runs in 9 IP), Jose Veras (1.38 ERA, 18 K in 13 IP, 9 SV), Jonathan Albaladejo (1.29 ERA), and Chris Britton (2.45 ERA).

Sean Henn was dominating in his rehab assignment (1.35 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), but was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster for Chad Moeller's return. Since being demoted, Billy Traber, the man who beat Henn out for the Opening Day LOOGY job, has struck out 7 against one walk in 4 1/3 innings with a similarly stellar 0.92 WHIP despite an artificially high ERA. Third lefty Heath Phillips has been solid thus far with a 2.87 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 15 Ks in 15 2/3 innings.

Scott Patterson, the one Opening Day roster finalist who hasn't seen the majors yet this year, has been underwhelming despite a still-strong strikeout rate, thus far proving the Yankees right for insisting he prove himself in triple-A before getting his first taste of the majors.

In the rotation, the triple-A debuts of Jeffrey Marquez and Alan Horne have not gone well. Marquez has a 7.47 ERA after six starts, and Horne left his second start after two innings due to a strained biceps and has been on the DL ever since. Horne is throwing in Tampa and could make an intrasquad start Saturday.

In better rotation news, the Yankees have converted career-long reliever Dan Giese to starting with excellent results (1.32 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in five starts). Kei Igawa should be in the big leagues over the weekend, so we'll talk about him then.

Speaking of big league returns, Wilson Betemit, rehabbing from pinkeye, has gone 6 for 17 with four doubles and four walks against three strikeouts in five games spent mostly at third base. Expect him back with the big club soon.

At the other corner, Juan Miranda, who many had hoped would arrive as a second-half reinforcement for first base, slugged just .367 before hitting the DL with an unspecified shoulder injury on Friday. However, Eric Duncan has shown some signs of life, hitting .270/.382/.459.

Brett Gardner, who claims to have tweaked his swing in the Arizona Fall League last year, is hitting .302/.377/.462. The power represented by that last figure is the key to his becoming a viable major league starter. Curiously, he's only been successful in five of his nine steal attempts despite an 84 percent career success rate entering the season.

Finally, the Yankees have added catcher J.D. Closser to the Scranton roster to deepen their catching corps while Jorge Posada is on the DL. Closser is a failed Rockies prospect from earlier in the decade, who never did hit in any of his major league shots (71 OPS+ in 160 games), but has a .277/.378/.455 career minor league line, which is significantly better than that of either Chad Moeller or Jose Molina.

Double-A Trenton Thunder

The big story out of Trenton is that 19-year-old outfield prospect Jose Tabata got off to a dreadful start and wigged out. On April 26, Tabata bolted the team after a seventh-inning strikeout and nearly quit baseball altogether. After calming down and serving a three-game disciplinary suspension, Tabata rejoined the team with a newfound resolve and has gone 7 for 12 in his last three games. It could be that crisis of confidence will make Tabata a better player in the long run. When I hear a story like his, or even like Ian Kennedy's, I always think of Mickey Mantle's famous story about being demoted during his rookie year. The great players rise to the challenge sooner or later. Tabata appears to have done just that.

Trenton's hottest hitter has been 23-year-old second baseman Kevin Russo (.311/.403/.508). Tabata's fellow outfield prospect Austin Jackson has yet to show power, hitting .281/.365/.355. First baseman Cody Ehlers and outfielder Matt Carson have supplied nearly all of Trenton's power, but both are 26 years old, which makes them ancient for double-A. Carson, who is in his seventh year in the organization, just got bumped up to triple-A for the first time in his career.

On the mound, the entire Trenton bullpen has been fantastic, but righty reliever David Robertson stands out among that group as he dominated with a 0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 26 Ks in 18 2/3 innings, earning a promotion to Scranton. This curveball has been the key to that success. Zachary Kroenke (2.38 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 13 Ks in 11 1/3 IP) is also worth watching because he throws with his left hand.

In the rotation, the standout has been Daniel McCutchen (2.33 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 39 Ks in 38 2/3 IP against 8 walks), though old pal Chase Wright gets special mention for his fashion sense. J.B. Cox has struck out four in four scoreless innings while walking none and allowing just two hits as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery, a marked improvement on his six innings with high-A Tampa.

High-A Tampa

The key name in Tampa right now is that of reliever Mark Melancon, who has been good but not great in the early going (3.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 14 K in 21 IP). There's not much else down there worth mentioning.

A-ball Charleston RiverDogs

Both of the organization's big catching prospects are excelling in Charlston. Austin Romine (.351/.367/.439) has been doing it mostly with singles. Jesus Montero (.326/.343/.508) has flashed his power, but could use a few walks as well. Romine's fellow 2007 draft picks, third baseman Bradley Suttle and second baseman Justin Snyder, both college men, have also gotten off to hot starts at .320/.382/.500 and .305/.370/.449 respectively.

On the mound, 22-year-old righty Jonathan Ortiz has been the team's best reliever (2.13 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 16 Ks in 12 2/3 IP against just one walk). Twenty-year-old righty Zachary McAllister has been the team's best starter (0.92 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 5.8 K/BB in six starts). Eighteen-year-old Jairo Heredia has also been strong (3.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 22 K in 20 2/3 IP). Dellin Betances, meanwhile, has struck out 45 men in 37 innings and allowed just 21 hits, but also walked 28.

The short-season Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League and Gulf Coast League Yankees start play in June.

Comments
2008-05-06 05:05:17
1.   Sliced Bread
Thanks for all that, Cliff.

Good news re: McCutchen and Cox.

The last two, Zachary McAllister and Dellin Betances have outstanding Bob Sheppard names.
I'm sure Sheppard doesn't get geeked about such things, but if anybody in the organization is keeping a list of promising prospects with Sheppard-worthy names, those two should be near the top.
Jose Tabata, too. Could be a great story in the making there.

2008-05-06 05:13:17
2.   Sliced Bread
typo, Cliff.
David Robertson not Robinson.
Slick curve he's got.
2008-05-06 05:37:00
3.   Knuckles
Nice writeup, Cliff. I normally don't pay much attention to minor league seasons until June/July, so this might give me an early jump this year.

28 free passes in 37 innings for Betances is a ton. Good thing he's not giving up any hits.

2008-05-06 06:29:33
4.   Shaun P
3 Good thing he's only 19 still too! =)

I think I remember Nate Silver saying we ought to keep our eyes on Damon Sublett, playing 2B at Tampa now, because PECOTA likes him. He's hitting .260/.357/.400, but it is the Florida State League.

Which reminds me. The FSL, in general, suppresses offense. Trenton is a very good pitchers' park. How does the SWB park play? I ask because so many of the pitchers there have ERAs under, or very close, to 4.00. Is 4.00 average for AAA, or is it small sample size, or is SWB a pitchers' park too?

2008-05-06 06:30:42
5.   Shaun P
3 4 My bad, Knuckles. Betances turned 20 on 3/23. Still, that's awfully young.
2008-05-06 07:37:37
6.   rbj
While we're on the subject of the minor leagues, anyone else seeing what the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs are doing: 4 & 28
http://tinyurl.com/4rc6la

4 wins & 28 losses, that's really bad, historically bad.

2008-05-06 07:44:33
7.   Cliff Corcoran
4 All four of the teams above play in pitchers parks, though Tampa is actually pretty neutral. That's why I didn't bother to mention park factors, they're pretty consistent throughout the system all the way up to the Bronx.

From BP08 (2005/2006/2007):

New York 988/993/1007
Scranton 995/992/989
Trenton 966/956/965
Tampa 998/998/1013
Charleston 972/973/955

That said, I imagine Trenton in the cold April we just had did a lot to suppress offense in comparison to warm Tampa.

The real outliers in the system are the two short-season parks:

Staten Island 895/892/905
GCL (also in Tampa) NA/1015/1023

2008-05-06 07:44:46
8.   Just fair
I'll apologize in advance.
Have the Yanks' ever had a Bob Evans down on the farm?
2008-05-06 07:46:54
9.   Cliff Corcoran
8 No, but the Red Sox did a few years back.
2008-05-06 07:48:43
10.   Cliff Corcoran
2 Fixed.
2008-05-06 08:49:30
11.   tommyl
"Kei Igawa should be in the big leagues over the weekend, so we'll talk about him then."

Most depressing line in a Banter post this season.

2008-05-06 09:09:40
12.   Bama Yankee
2 David Robertson is a former University of Alabama pitcher. After Andy Phillips got released, Jim Dean would always point out that Robertson would be the next "Bama Yankee" (he usually updated me on David's stats in the process). Man, I miss ol' Jim...
2008-05-06 09:10:17
13.   Zack
Clearly I think the story of the young minor league season so far is the bullpen. And that shouldn't really be a surprise. Between Ohlendorf, Alby, Britton, Veras, Ramirez, and Bruney all in the bigs, and the success of SWB's BP thus far, there has been a lot of focus on the "newfound arms" in the minors, which certainly provides a nice system of replacements to use throughout the season that can be counted on to be at least serviceable.

But the story goes deeper, of course, with pitchers like Robertson, who has done nothing but absolutely dominate in his minor league career, Patterson (who hasn't been great), and Cox and Melancon, who since some initial rockiness, have been pretty darn good ATC. Melancon needs to get his strike outs up, but I would expect to see Cox in SWB by July and Melancon by the end of the season.

2008-05-06 09:23:19
14.   tommyl
13 ATC?
2008-05-06 09:29:12
15.   Zack
14 Sorry, all things considered. Sometimes I let my shorthand get confused with internet speak...
2008-05-06 09:48:39
16.   Chyll Will
Love it Cliff, please keep this feature if you can >;)
2008-05-06 10:20:22
17.   ny2ca2dc
I also dig this feature. Would love to see a return of the series wrap, too. If not a series wrap, then maybe a weekly or homestand/roadtrip or monthly wrap? I want more Cliff!
2008-05-06 12:40:09
18.   YankeeInMichigan
I was surprised to see nothing on Humberto Sanchez, who I figured would be pitching in Tampa by now. milb.com doesn't have any stats on him either, so obviously he hasn't seen any action yet. Any word on his progress?

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