Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
May Farm Report
2008-05-29 18:54
by Cliff Corcoran

Hey, check it out, I remembered to do another one of these! (For those who missed it, here's the April Farm Report.) This month I'm adding bold faced names.

Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre

The big news out of Scranton is the impending opt-out of Jason Lane and the recent signing of Ben Broussard. Lane has hit .287/.387/.521 in May and can opt-out at the end of the month (which is tomorrow). A righty outfielder who has been working out at first base, he's just an older Shelley Duncan with more major league experience, but given the poor performance of the newer model, it may be worth giving the old chassis another kick.

Former Indian and Mariner Broussard is a 31-year-old lefty first baseman who can play the outfield corners. He was signed by the Rangers during the offseason and released by them earlier this month. His .225/.288/.393 career line against lefties in the major leagues makes him a bad fit for the Yankees and is the reason he was available in the first place. He has three doubles and a walk in seven plate appearances for Scranton.

Speaking of first-base depth, or the lack thereof, Juan Miranda is back on the DL after reinjuring his shoulder. He played just six games in May. Eric Duncan's promising April turned into a typically disappointing May (.205/.300/.269).

That .269 SLG for Duncan makes me wonder if the wind was blowing in all month, as Brett Gardner's April power surge also vanished in May as his game returned to it's previous form with outstanding on-base (.431) and stolen-base numbers (15 for 18), but a sub-.400 slugging percentage. On the season, Gardner is hitting .285/.405/.442 with 19 steals in 26 attempts (73 percent success).

Shifting to the pitchers, with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy on the DL, Joba Chamberlain moving into the rotation alongside Darrell Rasner, Kei Igawa having shown that he's made no improvements since last year, Steven White having been bounced to the bullpen, and Alan Horne having been on the DL since early April, the sixth starter on the Yankee depth chart is converted reliever Dan Giese, who posted a 2.59 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 3.38 K/BB ratio in five May starts. Jeff Marquez was better in May than he was in April, but still had just two quality starts in five tries. Jeff Karstens has yet to achieve the feat since being activated and optioned. He was awful in his last start. Daniel McCutchen could surpass Giese by the time I do my next Farm Report. His one triple-A start thus far was quality, though he gave up ten hits and took the loss.

Things are more encouraging out in the bullpen. After a rough April, Scott Patterson found his footing in May and posted a 1.59 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and struck out eight men against just one walk. He's now the triple-A closer. J.B. Cox has yet to allow a run in triple-A and has a 0.55 WHIP, though he's struck out just three men in 7 1/3 innings. David Robertson, who like Cox and McCutchen was promoted during May, has struck out 14 in 13 triple-A innings without allowing a home run and posted a 2.77 ERA, but has also walked 10. Once he gets those walks down, he'll be ready.

Double-A Trenton Thunder

The story in Trenton all year will be the three outfielders, but Austin Jackson is already breaking away from the pack. The 21-year-old's power went missing in April, but he hit .289/.381/.522 in May. Jose Tabata nearly quit baseball in April, so his .268/.321/.330 line has to be seen as somewhat encouraging, particularly when one remembers that he's a 19-year-old in double-A, but unlike Jackson he'll be in double-A for a long time at this rate. Mike Ashmore elaborated on Tabata's comittment issues before that most recent incident:

Could not agree more with a scouting report I saw on Jose Tabata that says he tends to turn his talent on and off. I can't tell you how many times I've seen him make no effort on catchable balls that are hit right at him that end up landing. Anthony Hatch hit a ball off of Melancon in the 5th that was right to him, but he barely moved and watched it land about three feet in front of him. I hate to rip the guy, but enough already . . .

Cancer survivor Colin Curtis was the subject of a feature on YES's pregame show recently, but his May line was closer to Tabata's than Jackson's, largely due to to a 66-point drop in his batting average. With those three, I'm not sure how manager Tony Franklin is finding playing time for 25-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Edwar Gonzalez, who was promoted from Tampa at the beginning of the month, but he has, and Gonzalez responded by hitting .323/.349/.485. If only he'd take a walk.

Third baseman Chris Malec struggled in his first month in double-A, but hit .328/.382/.492 in May. He's 25, but he can play first, third, second, and some outfield, so he's worth keeping an eye on as a utility bat. Twenty-three-year-old second baseman Kevin Russo cooled off a bit this month, but still hit .318/.351/.447, plenty for his position, and is hitting .318/.377/.465 on the year.

On the hill, the story has been 25-year-old Mexican League product Alfredo Aceves, who went 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 4.63 K/BB in eight starts for Tampa and has yet to allow a run in two double-A starts, striking out 13 against one walk in 16 innings. Beyond Aceves, the Tampa rotation has been excellent throughout, though Chase Wright just hit the DL with shoulder stiffness after walking more than he struck out in May, undermining his 2.03 ERA in four starts this month. George Kontos went 2-1 with a 2.90 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and 4.25 K/BB in five starts. Jason Jones is 7-1 on the season with a 2.36 ERA, which was 2.10 in five May starts, and lefty Phil Coke went 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his five starts this month, though the 25-year-olds' peripherals remain uninspiring.

Out in the pen, Mark Melancon has taken to his promotion from Trenton as well as could have been expected, allowing just one run and six baserunners while striking out 11 in 11 innings thus far. He could be in Scranton before long. Anthony Claggett is doing in Trenton what David Robertson is doing in Scranton, dominating (1.29 ERA, 13 Ks in 14 IP), but with too many walks (8). If he can reduce the walks, he'll move up, ditto Michael Gardner (2.19 May ERA with 12 Ks in 12 IP, but also 12 BB), who was the Rule 5 pick returned by the Padres.

High-A Tampa

Pickings are still slim in Tampa, particularly among the hitters. On the mound, 22-year-old righty starter Christian Garcia is off the DL and pitching well (1.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 21 Ks against five walks and no homers in 15 2/3 innings). Dominican Wilkins Arias is 27 years old and repeating A-ball, but he's a lefty and dominated this month out of the pen (1.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 20 Ks against just two walks and no homers in 12 1/3 innings). He's also six-foot-one and weighs just 150 pounds.

Low-A Charleston RiverDogs

Like Trenton and its outfielders, the story in Charleston all season will be catching prospects Austin Romine and Jesus Montero. Both did well in April, but May has been another story. Romine spent some time on the DL and has hit just .154/.214/.269 on the month. Montero's been better, but his .265/.333/.408 line on the month was a significant cooling off from his hot start. Third-base prospect Bradley Suttle spent all of May on the disabled list after a brief stint on the DL in April due to a hip flexor injury.

May has been no more kind to righty Dellin Betances, who has gone 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA, 19 walks and five homers allowed in 23 2/3 innings. He's still allowing less than a hit per inning and striking out about one per frame, but the tall 20-year-old is going to need a lot of work. Twenty-three-year-old righty Jason Stephens had a much better month. Moving into the rotation, Stephens posted a 1.93 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 4.33 K/BB in four starts.

In the pen, 23-year-old Dominican lefty Wilkins De La Rosa saw his hit rate and ERA increase in May, but he's struck out 49 men in 33 1/3 innings on the season and allowed just one home run while posting a 2.43 ERA. Given that he's a southpaw, that's worth watching. Twenty-two-year-old righties Jonathan Ortiz and Craig Heyer have been great in relief. The Dominican Ortiz has a 1.85 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 27 Ks against just four walks and one homer in 24 1/3 innings. UNLV product Heyer has a 1.50 ERA and 0.97 WHIP on the season having also walked just four and allowed no homers in 30 innings. Eighteen-year-old Jairo Heredia didn't pitch for most of the month, but got right back on the horse in two recent scoreless outings.

Finally, let me add this interview Mike Ashmore did with organizational pitching guru Nardi Contreras, a man we often hear about, but rarely hear from (or see). Also, be sure to check out the sidebar of Ashmore's blog for video of whichever Trenton Thunder player you're most curious about.

If I keep this up, this post will be even longer next month as the short-season Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Penn League and Gulf Coast League Yankees start play in June.

2008-05-29 23:50:07
1.   weeping for brunnhilde
Hey, guys. Not sure if anyone picked this up, but here's Murcer on the Leonard Lopate show:

Haven't listened to it myself, yet, but here it is.

2008-05-30 03:44:51
2.   williamnyy23
Managing your farm system is pretty much an excercise in separating the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately, in baseball, there is a lot more chaff than wheat. So far, Montero and Jackson look like wheat. I am not sure too many others have taken a significant step forward, either due to poor performance or injuries. I know the Yankees want to build from within, but I also think they need to make sure they are scouting their own farm well while also looking for potential deals, whether they be for veterans or other prospects/younger players (like the Hamilton/Volquez deal).
2008-05-30 05:04:26
3.   Sliced Bread
Thanks again for all that, Cliff.
You were right about Steven White, and great stuff from Chad Jennings there.
2008-05-30 05:14:20
4.   williamnyy23
More bad news about Tabata. The young man needs to get his act together.

2008-05-30 05:27:21
5.   Just fair
Great Info.
4 I just read that myself. It kinda just makes me shake my head and say, "Damn." He needs a serious kick in the rear or a solid menor. I am also a bit tired on the but "he's only 19" bit.
2008-05-30 05:39:28
6.   mehmattski
4 Mike Ashmore reports that Tabata was benched for lollygagging on a fly ball. Sounds like Jose's got a little Reggie in him!

2008-05-30 05:57:17
7.   rbj
Thanks Cliff and keep it up, please.

The "one triple-A" link is busted.

If Tabata would rather spend his life working harder for less money in a factory, so be it.

2008-05-30 06:09:34
8.   williamnyy23
7 Considering he was signed at 16, I don't think he got a huge signing bonus. You would think the motivation would be there.

Maybe the Yankees need fellow Venezuelan Bobby Abreu to have a chat with him. I think they developed a relationship last Spring Training.

2008-05-30 06:11:22
9.   williamnyy23
8 Actually, his signing bonus was a half million, which has to seem like a boat load of money to a 16-year old. Of course, considering his immaturity, I'd imagine he has spent a nice chunk of it (or perhaps used it to help his family).
2008-05-30 06:27:41
10.   Bama Yankee
Nice job, Cliff. Thanks for the update.
2008-05-30 06:36:33
11.   Rob Middletown CT
Worrisome, considering how Tabata was generally ranked as the best or 2nd best position-player prospect in the system. I know he's young. Fine. But he's also aspiring to be a MLB player, and needs to cut this sort of shit out.
2008-05-30 06:40:24
12.   Cliff Corcoran
7 Fixed.

4 That was actually the bad news I was talking about above.

2008-05-30 07:26:11
13.   standuptriple
Are there any updates on the condition of Cervelli?
2008-05-30 08:06:38
14.   Shaun P
Cliff, I'm loving the farm report. Can't wait to see June's with the short season stuff, and maybe some draft-related assignments too (if guys of interest have signed by then).

Off topic - I found out who the current supervisor of umpires is for the Commish's office. Guess what? He's a former umpire!

2008-05-30 08:09:25
15.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
Cliff thanks a TON for this. Please do keep them coming! :)

8 And/or have Jeter repeat the sage advice he got when he was a kid racing through the system.

2008-05-30 08:12:54
16.   51cq24
8 i'm not sure abreu is the best guy to tell him about hustling for fly balls
2008-05-30 08:22:00
17.   JL25and3
14 Don't you think he should be a former umpire?
2008-05-30 08:31:11
18.   williamnyy23
16 Abreu doesn't suffer from a lack of hustle...just an exaggerated fear of walls.
2008-05-30 08:48:48
19.   Raf
I don't think Abreu will be back next year, so I doubt he will be able to advise Tabata. If he's going to get a stern talking to, it will be during the Futures game (if he makes it), or during winter ball (if he plays), or during spring training.

But someone needs to pull Tabata's coat, sooner than later.

2008-05-30 09:05:55
20.   YankeeInMichigan
The most encouraging news there is the resurgence of Scott Patterson. At the opening of the season, the Yankees had enough bullpen depth to ride the hot hand and leverage the Scranton Shuttle. With the injuries to Bruney and Albaladejo, that depth has all but disappeared, and no one is available to replace a slumping Ohlendorf and Veras. It appears that Patterson is finally reemerging as a viable option.

Speaking of Scranton relievers, Cliff neglected to mention Billy Traber. He seems to have been solid recently, save a disasterous outing against Pawtucket on the 26th.

2008-05-30 09:11:40
21.   rafael00
I get a bit frustrated at times by the ease with which we, as fans, criticize players. I know that when I was 19 (and even today), I didn't show up particularly OHMYGOD-I'm-so-motivated!!! to do my job everyday. It happens.
It's so easy to pass character judgements (he's immature, he needs to get his head in "the right place," wherever that is), but the reality is that we don't know these people. And just like most of us don't give it our all at work every day (or most days, if we're being honest...and to those of you who claim to do so, well, not all people in the real world are like you, just like all ballplayers aren't Derek Jeter (or insert your favorite "never slacks off" here)), we really shouldn't have this expectation that others should do the same.

Recognizing that these people are the best in the world at what they do (really, even the worst of players in the minor leagues are better than us), a level which most of us will never reach at almost anything that we do, doesn't change the fact that, for them, they're just living their lives. We don't stop and appreciate all of the gifts that we have (if you wake up in the morning and have food to eat, you're already ahead of most of the world), and yet somehow ballplayers are supposed to show up to work and say, "Thank goodness I have these skills, and I will execute them to my fullest, 100% of the time." Seriously? I mean, come's simply a part of human nature to undervalue what you have and overvalue what others have. It's why we're all hunched over our keyboards, looking at people who have such an amazing talent level that we are immediately humbled and of which we are slightly envious (only in the sense that I don't think anybody here would turn away the opportunity to play ball professionally, were the skill to be offered to you), while sometimes they probably look at us and say, "I wish I could just have a normal life like you."

They're just people, and yeah, he's just 19. For those of us who tire of hearing that line, well, he's probably tired of hearing you say how much he should be applying himself because you think he should.

2008-05-30 09:24:24
22.   JL25and3
21 I don't think people are judging Tabata as a person, just as a major-league prospect.
2008-05-30 09:29:20
23.   Raf
21 Your rant is misguided. How many times does Tabata has to be benched, or put on a suspended list for him to get the message? That he's 19 years old is no excuse.

Maybe he'll get his act together, maybe he won't, but no matter what, the game goes on. He isn't the first multitalented player to pass through the game, nor will he be the last.

2008-05-30 09:43:56
24.   Shaun P
17 In the context of being the liaison between the Commish's Office and the umps, absolutely. In the context of having to monitor umpire performance, and bring the guys calling the Eric Gregg strike zone back into line, absolutely not.

Obviously those 2 things overlap, but it takes a particular kind of person to set former colleagues (and current friends) straight when they are going wrong. I'm not saying it can't be done, or that this guy isn't doing it, I don't know.

What concerns me is that we are 2 months into the season, and the zone seems to be getting worse, not better. In contrast, within 2 months of Sandy Alderson (a non-ump) issuing his "call the zone by the book" edict, the umps were calling the zone by the book.

2008-05-30 09:52:21
25.   JL25and3
24 I agree that it needs to be a particular sort of person. That's always true of people in a supervisory role. But umpiring is a highly specialized skill, and while many people may be able to comment on the quality of an umpire's work, it would most likely take a former umpire to understand how to correct it.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that every year is the worst year for umpiring ever.

2008-05-30 10:21:30
26.   rbj
12 Thanks.

9 Maybe the Yankees can get Brien Taylor and/or Andre Robertson to give a talk to all the new young players about how special it is to be able to get paid to play baseball (and yes, there is an awful lot of hard work involved) and they should put aside a large chunk of their early money -- spend the second million, save the first million.

I can see getting suspended by the team once, if you're a young kid. But twice in the same season, especially so close together is not a good sign. I hope he gets his act together.

Didn't Bobby Cox pull Andruw Jones once in the midst of an inning for not hustling down a fly ball?

2008-05-30 10:29:47
27.   RIYank
Check this out if you haven't read Tyler Kepner in the Times today:

It's on Darrell Rasner's ability to keep batters from hitting the ball on the sweet spot. The interesting part (to me) was the demonstration of what/where the sweet spot is.

2008-05-30 10:37:17
28.   Zack
Cliff, you didn't mention Ryan Pope, perhaps my favorite "prospect" of the bunch. The righty from Savannah College of Art & Design with the perfect mechanics has been rock steady this year in Tampa. 2.81 ERA, about a hit/IP, and about a 4:1 K:BB ratio. The man hasn't walked anyone in over a month and 5 starts...

He's never going to wow anyone, but in his brief career he's kept the ball in the park and maintained a great K:BB. Good signs...

2008-05-30 10:43:30
29.   tommyl
27 Yeah I saw that too, its really, really cool. I suggest everyone reads it.
2008-05-30 10:53:02
30.   williamnyy23
21 Once Tabata put his name on a contract and accepted $550,000 to play baseball as a 16-year old, he stopped being just a kid. Like or not, being a successful world class athlete requires exceptional commitment. Also, taking large sums of money brings with it extraordinary responsibility. If Tabata wants to be a major leaguer, then he has to wake up and realize that fact. Otherwise, he can be just another kid and lead a normal a childhood. No one is questioning his character, just his dedication to be a professional baseball player.
2008-05-30 10:58:37
31.   williamnyy23
27 Excellent post...especially the part about beat writers having plenty of access to ballplayers. It isn't surprising that those complaining are columnists, whose subject matter often has more to do with off the field than on the field matters. From the HBO special, I know that Selena Robert's problem was not being able to schedule time with Lebron James to discuss his relationship with Jay Z. Well, I am sorry Selena, but that's really none of your business. If Lebron wants to keep his personal relationships, well, personal, he has no obligation to share it with you. Instead, maybe Ms. Roberts could have requested a conversation about something novel like basketball?

I'm sure athletes have more respect for beatwriters because they see them everyday trying to make a living, whereas columnists are interlopers simply trying to exploit an an event.

2008-05-30 12:07:53
32.   Cliff Corcoran
28 Good call. I have no idea why I left him out.
2008-05-30 12:20:43
33.   Shaun P
25 A two-person role is fine by me: one former ump, one respected heavy to bring the noise. I think the zone got progressively better from '02 to '05, but started going downhill in '06. Anyway . . .
2008-05-30 12:55:58
34.   YankeeInMichigan
26 I don't know about Cox and Jones, but Billy Martin certainly once pulled Reggie Jackson in the middle of an inning for exactly that reason, prompting a fist-fight in front of the dugout on national television.

Bottom of the 6th, Red Sox Batting, Ahead 7-4, Mike Torrez facing 1-2-3
Fred Stanley replaces Lou Piniella playing SS batting 9th
O --- 89% R Burleson Groundout: SS-1B
--- 90% F Lynn Single to RF
1-- 93% J Rice Double to RF; Lynn to 3B
Sparky Lyle replaces Mike Torrez pitching; Paul Blair replaces Reggie Jackson playing RF batting 5th
O -23 90% C Yastrzemski Groundout: 1B unassisted
O -23 88% C Fisk Flyball: CF
0 runs, 2 hits, 0 errors, 2 LOB. Yankees 4, Red Sox 7.

2008-05-30 13:10:54
35.   Chyll Will
I think both Rey Négron and Tony Peña could take a personal interest in Tabata. The kid's in need of an adult who can relate to what's going on in his head. I don't think that's Bobby, Alex or even Jorge (though Jorge would definitely put a foot in is behind when necessary...)

Who did Manny have when he was that age? That's the second thing I thought of (not manny as mentor, but who (if anyone) mentored Manny...) .

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