The big news out of Scranton is that Shelley Duncan's season might be over due to a separated shoulder suffered after making the spectacular warning-track catch pictured here. Not that it matters any more, but Shelley hit a miserable .160/.328/.280 in June.
In other 40-man roster news, Ian Kennedy, who was activated from the DL and optioned to single-A Tampa last week, dominated for five innings in his lone Tampa start and is scheduled to start for Scranton tonight. First baseman Juan Miranda finally stayed healthy in June and hit .356/.371/.475 on the month, but if you look closely that's almost all batting average. Miranda hit no homers and drew just two walks in June.
I still can't figure out why the Yankees called up Justin Christian when Hideki Matsui went on the DL. Supposedly they picked the righty-hitting Christian over the lefty-hitting Brett Gardner because the team was scheduled to face several left-handed starting pitchers, but as Pete Abe pointed out to me on Monday, Gardner hit .318/.404/.518 against lefties in Scranton this year against Christian's .286/.315/.531. Yes, Christian was having a monster June (.412/.448/.588), but Gardner was having the better overall season (.293 GPA to Christian's .281) and, at age 24, still has the sort of prospect potential that the 28-year-old Christian lacks. At least Christian's stay was brief. Christian could have some use as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement, but there's no good reason to start him in the major leagues. That said, Christian was the only SWB Yankee to make the International League All-Star team.
Elsewhere in the Scranton outfield, Brigham Young product Matt Carson, who started the year in Trenton and just turned 27 on Tuesday, hit .351/.400/.568 in June.
On the mound, Alan Horne was unimpressive in June and is back on the DL with a tired arm, but Jeff Karstens had a great month (1.88 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 22 K, 4 BB, 1 HR in 24 IP) and another strong start last night. Of course, Karstens still has that scary fly-ball rate. He should compare notes with Jeff Marquez who finally got straightened out in June, posting a 2.92 GB/FB ratio, a 1.89 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP. Then again, Marquez walked seven in 19 innings against just three strikeouts. Dan McCutchen was inconsistent in his first full month in triple-A, but posted a 3.38 K/BB, which is a good sign that he'll settle down. Alfredo Aceves was promoted from Trenton, but landed on the DL with a groin injury before making his triple-A debut.
Veteran reliever Scott Strickland made just 13 appearances during the first two months of the season, but made 13 more in June and allowed just one run in 17 1/3 innings with a 0.69 WHIP and 18 Ks. Scott Patterson was solid after returning from his brief stint in the majors, but is now on the DL with pneumonia. J.B. Cox spent most of June on the DL with a sore shoulder, but is back in action now. Steven White has been dreadful since moving to the bullpen and finally and deservedly lost his place on the 40-man roster when the Yankees cleared room for Christian. Billy Traber's recent major league stint was utterly unmotivated by his minor league performance.
With Brett Gardner in the majors, it's tempting to wonder if Austin Jackson will move up to triple-A behind him, but Jackson had a rather pedestrian June (.270/.331/.468) and there's no need to rush the 21-year-old through the system. Jackson (.271/.353/.437 on the season), third baseman Chris Malec (.300/.394/.430), catcher P.J. Pilittere (.280/.331/.342), and righty starter Jason Jones (8-3, 2.45 ERA) were named to the Eastern League's Northern Division All-Star team. Jones was promoted to Scranton at the end of the month and dominated for five innings in his Triple-A debut. In stark contrast, Jose Tabata's lost season continues as he's just hit the DL with a strained hamstring.
Lefty starter Phil Coke had another solid month, posting a 2.45 ERA and a 3.38 K/BB. Righty Eric Hacker made his double-A debut at the end of May and had a solid first month at the level with a 1.80 June ERA and a 2.90 K/BB. Jones, Coke, and Hacker are all 25 years old.
In the pen, Marc Melancon had another strong month, but the Yankees are going to let him continue to develop his changeup and build arm strength in Trenton. Perhaps passing Melancon on the ladder is Anthony Clagget, the least heralded of the three pitchers obtained in the Gary Sheffield deal. Clagget posted a 1.15 ERA in June and reduced his May walk rate significantly (from 5.51 BB/9 to 3.45). He has a 1.13 ERA in 32 double-A innings this season and could move up soon.
Promoted from low-A Charleston at the end of May, 20-year-old righty starter Zach McAllister posted a 1.71 ERA for Tampa in June with a 4.75 K/BB. Toothpick-thin 27-year-old lefty reliever Wilkins Arias didn't allow a run in 13 June innings while striking out 19 against just three walks. He has 56 strikeouts against 11 walks in 40 innings this season. Please promote this man to Trenton.
Low-A Charleston RiverDogs
The power catcher Jesus Montero showed in April still hasn't returned, nor has fellow backstop prospect Austin Romine been able to repeat his solid April showing. On the upside, both hit for a solid average in June and Romine tripled his season's walk total over the course of the month. After missing May due to injury, third-base prospect Bradley Suttle largely maintained his April on-base and slugging numbers despite an 80-point drop in average, which says very good things about his secondary offensive skills.
On the mound, 18-year-old righty starter Jairo Heredia had a solid month, striking out 29 men in 31 innings and posting a 2.90 ERA, though his walk rate swelled a bit. In the pen, 22-year-old righty Jonathan Ortiz has been dominating consistently all year. He has a 1.72 ERA with a 0.90 WHIP and 46 Ks in 36 2/3 innings against just six walks. That's a 7.67 K/BB. Time to move this guy up.
Short-Season Staten Island
The short-season leagues are primarily comprised of players making their professional debuts, thus their stats, particularly those for their first few weeks of play, are roughly equivalent to spring training stats in terms of significance. The level of play is also very similar to the Cape Cod League, in which the best undrafted college hitters are forced to switch to wood bats and face the best undrafted college pitchers, who are ahead of the hitters at that level to begin with.
With that disclaimer, the top hitter on the Staten Island roster in the early going has been Mike Lyon, a third baseman who was drafted in the 24th round out of Northeastern last month. Lyon is hitting .324/.432/.486.
The highest 2008 draft pick in action on Staten Island is third-rounder David Adams, a second baseman taken out of the University of Virginia. Adams, who comes to the organization with a reputation as a hard-nosed player, is hitting .271/.364/.333 with two stolen bases in as many tries.
On the mound, the big story thus far has been switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. The Yankees' 20th-round pick last month out of Chreighton University, Venditte throws with both arms and switches between arms from batter to batter while utilizing a six-fingered glove. Venditte made news almost immediately with this comic confrontation against switch-hitter Ralph Henriquez of the Brooklyn Cylones. That confusion necessitated some clarification of the rules governing such a situation. The Griddle's Bob Timmerman has more on switch-pitchers here.
Venditte is a long shot to ever make the majors, but that clip shows that he has a pretty nifty 12-to-6 right-handed curve that comes in at 70 miles per hour. Venditte has allowed just two baserunners in 6 1/3 scoreless innings as a pro thus far, and has struck out six, including Henriquez.
Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees
The best hitter on the GCL Yankees has been right fielder Tom Baldridge, who was taken in the 33rd round last month out of Costal Carolina University. He is hitting .296/.406/.481 in nine games. The top 2008 draft picks in action here are shortstop Corbin Joseph and outfielder Christopher Smith, who were taken in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively. Neither's hitting a lick yet, however.
Notable among the GCL pitchers are rehabbers Humberto Sanchez and Dellin Betances. Sanchez is pitching regular season games for the first time since coming over in the Sheffield trade, though it's too early to examine his results. As for Betances, after posting a 4.09 ERA and walking 40 men in 55 innings for Charleston in the Sally League, the 20-year-old has found himself down here working two-inning outings. After just three appearances, his walks are down, but he's getting hit. Refining Betances talent is going to be a long process, folks.