Although the much-awaited Prospect Handbook hasn’t come out just yet, Baseball Americahas released their annual rankings of the Yankees Top 10 prospects and “Best Tools” honors.
Former Thunder players were scattered amongst the latter; as Jesus Montero took “best hitter for average” and “best hitter for power, Dellin Betances “best fastball” and “best curveball,” Manny Banuelos “best changeup,” and Austin Romine earned “best defensive catcher” honors.
I think you could make an argument that Banuelos’ curveball is better than Betances — or at least that it will be — but that’s a pretty nitpicky complaint.
As far as non-Thunder players, the other “award” winners were…
Best Strike Zone Disicipline: Ramon Flores Fastest Baserunner: Mason Williams (pictured) Best Athlete: Mason Williams Best Slider: Mark Montgomery Best Control: Nik Turley Best Defensive Infielder: Cito Culver Best Infield Arm: Cito Culver Best Defensive OF: Mason Williams Best Outfield Arm: Ravel Santana
As far as the list itself, here goes…
1) Jesus Montero, C 2) Manny Banuelos, LHP 3) Dellin Betances, RHP 4) Gary Sanchez, C 5) Mason Williams, OF 6) Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B 7) Ravel Santana, OF 8) Austin Romine, C 9) J.R. Murphy, C/3B 10) Slade Heathcott, OF
We’ll get to the others, but I think the name that stands out is Santana. Considered the top prospect in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, the 19-year-old made his North American debut last year in the Gulf Coast League. Although his season was cut short by an ankle injury, he put together a season in which he hit .296 with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 41 games. The 6-foot-2, 160 pounder walked 17 times and struck out 40 in 160 AB’s, stole ten bases and posted a .929 OPS. And, as you saw above, he apparently has a hose for an arm.
Will he be another international signing who vaults into the prospect spotlight but flames out — anyone remember Rudy Guillen? Exactly. – Or will he continue his impressive progression? Either way, you won’t see him in Trenton for a few years.
As for the others…well, there isn’t much you can say about Montero that I haven’t already written. I’d like to think he’s hit his way into the big leagues full-time in 2012, but where will he play? His defense, which has admittedly improved, still needs a lot of work. A lot of work. But his bat was special when he got to Trenton, and remains so now. Has the potential to be a big league All-Star with the bat, but definitely not behind the plate.
The Banuelos/Betances ranking makes sense…I’ve seen some write-ups where people think Betances has a higher ceiling than Banuelos, and I’d actually disagree. When he’s on — and all too often last season, he wasn’t — Banuelos has some truly special stuff. Betances does as well…his fastball is inarguably better than Banuelos’, but given Manny’s a lefty, I think he’s got the better ceiling. I also think, however, Betances has a much better chance of reaching his. Scouts have spoken with me in regards to their concerns about his athleticism and how he’ll hold up over the long-term as a starter, and I believe those concerns are valid. Although in absolutely no way am I suggesting he should be moved to the bullpen at this stage in his development — I still wonder what that did to Joba Chamberlain — I do believe he’d be very successful in a late-inning role.
I haven’t seen Sanchez yet, so I can’t say much on him…although the numbers are obviously impresive. Same goes for Dante Bichette, Jr. (have only seen him take BP), J.R. Murphy and Slade Heathcott. I don’t like commenting on guys unless I’ve seen them myself, and if you’ve read my rants on these lists before, you know that’s one of my biggest concerns with them. That, and people take them way, way too seriously.
I have seen Mason Williams, however, and you know if you’ve seen my tweets while I was watching Staten Island or if you read the feature I wrote on him, that I love this kid. There’s nothing wrong with a well-rounded player — and that’s not to say Williams isn’t just that — but when a guy doesn’t have a standout tool, you start to wonder what kind of impact he can make on a game if his other attributes start to falter. Williams is a true burner. Check out YouTube and look at the videos I’ve shot of this kid. Covers a TON of ground in the outfield and on the basepaths, and is pretty good with the lumber as well. I wonder if he’ll ever develop power, and I guess that’s where the inevitable comparisons to Brett Gardner will come in, but when you consider he’s only at the Short Season-A level — I presume he’d start in Low-A Charleston this season and finish the year in High-A Tampa — you’ve got to be excited about his future.
And finally, with Romine…he’s starting to slide down the prospect charts, and that makes some sense. His bat has leveled off a bit, and despite being the organization’s best defensive catcher, he still needs to improve his numbers when it comes to throwing out baserunners. He’s also coming off a year in which he was pretty banged up, which may have affected his performance. The personable two-time Futures Game alum may end up being the starting backstop for the traveling Triple-A circus this season.
Thunder announce staff additions, promotions for 2012
(Trenton, NJ)- The Trenton Thunder, the Double A affiliate of the New York Yankees, have announced several promotions and additions to the Front Office Staff in preparation for the 2012 season that will begin on April 5 at home against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The Thunder welcome four new employees and have promoted nine from within as the organization moves forward after a year that saw a 5% increase in attendance per game.
“I rank our staff with any in Minor League Baseball. In a business that has annual turnover, we’ve done an outstanding job of adding talented staff members to those positions that have vacancies while keeping a core group of employees intact," said Thunder General Manager Will Smith. "We continue to educate seasonal staff members to give them the tools to become full-time employees. It’s a great business, and we have a tremendous staff. "
"I cannot wait for Opening Day on April 5th to continue to show our fans how hard our staff works throughout the off-season to prepare 71 events for their entertainment,” Smith added.
The staff changes begin with Jeff Hurley who has been promoted to Director, Finance/Baseball Operations. Jeff, who grew up in Hamilton, NJ, was an intern with the Thunder in 2004. He joined the full time ticket sales staff the following year and from 2007-2011 was the Accounting Manager and the team's baseball operations liason with the New York Yankees.
East Windsor, NJ resident Greg Lavinhas been elevated to Director, Creative & Audiovisual Services. He joined the Thunder in 2005 as a Production Department Intern and is responsible for all aspects of game day fan entertainment including in-game promotions, music and videos as well as producing print items such as brochures and other marketing pieces.
The Thunder are pleased to welcome Patrick McMaster as the Director, Corporate Partnerships and Business Development. Patrick, a native of Hanover, PA, has spent the last seven years working in Minor League Baseball including his most recent stop as the Assistant General Manager of Sales for the Charlotte Stone Crabs (Class A, Florida State League).
Bobby Picardo, who began his career as a Thunder intern in 2009, has been promoted to Ticket Sales Manager. Bobby, who grew up in Atlanitc Highlands, NJ, will sell new group and ticket packages, coordinate the Baseball Camp & High School Baseball series as well as help oversee the team's internship program.
Nate Schneider, who joined the Thunder in 2011, has been promoted to Group Sales Account Executive. The native of Pottsville, PA spent 2010 working for the Reading Phillies and will sell various group and hospitality options to businesses and community groups.
Millstone Township, NJ's Caitlin Reardon has been promoted to Ticket Sales Account Executive for the 2012 season. Caitlin was a Thunder game day employee from 2006-2008, worked full time for Sky Blue FC of Women's Professional Soccer for 2009 and 2010 and then rejoined the Thunder last year. In her new role, she will coordinate the team's Most Improved Student and School Music Awards Programs and sell ticket packages, while also monitoring the team's presence on Twitter.
Jennifer Murphy, a native of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts has made the transition from Merchandise Assistant to Business Development Executive for 2012. Jennifer spent last season helping manage the Thunder Company Store and will focus on selling season tickets, ticket packages and group outings to local businesses this season.
Jeremy Sanders, who grew up in Scotch Plains, NJ and Caracas, Venezuela, worked as a Ticket Sales Intern for the Thunder in 2011. He has joined the staff full time as a Ticket Sales Account Representative where he will sell ticket packages and serve as a team liason to the local Spanish-speaking community.
Chris Kiernan has joined the Thunder as a Seasonal Group Sales Account Representative. Chris, a native of Lacey, NJ, spent the 2011 season as a Ticket Sales Assistant with the Lakewood BlueClaws (Class A, South Atlantic League) and will coordinate group outings at the ballpark for companies and community organizations.
Lindsey Raviorof Minotola, NJ, has been brought on as a Seasonal Group Sales Account Representative. Lindsey spent last season working in the Ticket Department for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Class A, Carolina League).
Two members of the 2011 Trenton Thunder Internship Program, Jess Ridolfino of Crosswicks, NJ and Kevin Ertel of Brick, NJ have joined the Front Office Staff for next season. Jess will serve as a Ticket Sales Intern while Kevin will serve as Group Sales Coordinator.
Rounding out the staff changes is the hiring of Breanne O'Neill as Merchandise Assistant. Breanne, from Yardley, PA, is a June 2011 graduate of Drexel University.
The Thunder Front Office now includes ten people who served as interns for the organization. These include Hurley, Lavin, Picardo, Reardon, Sanders, Ridolfino and Ertel above as well as Director of Ticket Operations Matt Pentima, Stadium Operations Manager Steve Brokowskyand Group Sales Account Executive T.J. Jahn. FULL STAFF LIST
The 2012 Trenton Thunder season will begin on Thursday, April 5 against New Hampshire. Season Tickets, Group Tickets, Pic-A-Plans and Mini Plans are all on sale now at trentonthunder.com.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
The everyday catcher at Triple-A, finally. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Now more than ever, clubs are using their Triple-A affiliate as an extension of the big league roster. The Yankees are no different, so you’ll see some spare parts filling out the Triple-A Scranton roster around the actual prospects his summer. There will be an extra outfielder and infielder, as well as a horde of spare arms. I don’t mean the kind of arms with long-term potential, I mean the disposable kind that can come up, get thrown to the wolves for a few days, then be cast aside and released. The Buddy Carlyle, Brett Tomko, and Amaury Sanit types. Those guys serve a purpose, albeit a small one.
The core of this year’s Triple-A team will be a deep pitching staff, particularly the starters. If everyone makes it through Spring Training healthy and the Yankees don’t need any of their young guys on the Opening Day roster, they’ll have to figure out how to squeeze six starters into five Triple-A rotation spots. The bullpen figures to boast a few power arms and a few savvy veterans, some of whom we’ll surely see at some point this coming summer.
Since we’ve sufficiently analyzed the big league roster to death, let’s take a second to look at what the Triple-A roster might look like when the season begins. Remember, it’s only a 24-man roster down in Triple-A, so there’s one less spot to play around with. Considering how infrequently the 25th man plays in the bigs, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The DH will rotate in all likelihood, allowing Russo, Brewer and Nix to get semi-regular at-bats. Laird figures to see the majority of his time at third base, but he’ll also play some first base and left field. Curtis and Garner will see time in all three outfield spots, as will Brewer off the bench. JoVa will get the occasional start at third. It’s all about developing and maintaining versatility for these guys.
Speaking of Vazquez, there have been unconfirmed rumors that he may flee for Japan (where he’d make considerably more money), which would open the door for someone like Bradley Suttle or Cody Johnson to get their first taste of life above Double-A. A minor league free agent could also be an option for that spot, perhaps someone like Dan Johnson or even Nick Johnson. That would be kinda neat.
The two wildcards here are Justin Maxwell and Chris Dickerson, both of whom are out of minor league options and will need to clear waivers to be sent down at any point next season. If one of those guys manages to make it through waivers and starts the season in Triple-A, it’ll likely push Brewer back to Double-A. It would shock me if both clear, but in that case the Yankees would probably just release Wise and send Brewer back to Tripe-A.
Reegie Corona is still in the organization after finally being taken off the 40-man roster a few months ago, and he’s a prime phantom DL candidate. That means he’ll remain with the team but not be on the active roster, instead stashed away on the DL with a fake injury and ready to be activated whenever someone else actually does get hurt. Doug Bernier could be destined for the same fate as well.
Pitching Staff (12)
Another Opening Day start for Phelps? (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
I’m working under the assumption that none of these guys will be needed in the big league rotation when the regular season begins, so everyone will get jammed in Triple-A. That creates a bit of a logjam because we’ve got six starters for five spots. Brian Cashman indicated during the Winter Meetings that Noesi will start somewhere (either in Triple-A or the bigs) in 2012, and they’re very unlikely to bump either Banuelos or Betances into the bullpen or back to Double-A. That leaves two spots for Phelps, Warren, and Mitchell.
As part of last week’s Yankees Top Ten Prospects Chat (subs. req’d), Baseball America’s John Manuel said Mitchell is “still viewed as more of a reliever long-term inside the organization,” mentioning him as a candidate for a “Ramiro Mendoza kind of swing role.” I called him a relief candidate back before the 2010 season, so it’s probably not a terrible time to make the conversion given that he has a full year of Triple-A starting under his belt. He can still work multiple innings out of the bullpen, and whenever one of the starters gets inevitably called up, he can step right into the rotation. Assuming he isn’t the one called up, of course.
Kontos and Whelan are the veterans in the bullpen, at least in the sense that they were with the team last year. The latter figures to again serve as closer. O’Connor and Daley are on minor league contracts and are ticketed for Triple-A, as is Miller barring an absolutely dominant camp and a surprise spot on the big league team’s Opening Day roster. I’m fairly certain that he’ll get some regular innings in the minors before being considered for a big league spot later on during the summer, assuming he pitches well enough to deserve the look.
That ??? bullpen spot is very much up for grabs. It could go to Ryan Pope, who started last year at this level, or possibly even Pat Venditte. Craig Heyer and Cory Arbiso are also possibilities. Hideki Okajima is on a minor league deal, but at the moment I expect him to make the Yankees roster to open the season. There’s always the minor league free agent pool, as the Yankees could bring back someone like Josh Schmidt or Eric Wordkemper, or go for some new blood instead. There is no shortage of arms still available on the open market (RHP, LHP).
* * *
The neat thing about Triple-A baseball is that even if the Opening Day roster ends up looking like it does in this post, it won’t matter a month into the season. There will be injuries, promotions, demotions, veterans opting out of contracts, you name it. The roster turnover at this level is insane, upwards of 70 transactions a year. It’s not enough to be 25 men deep these days, the Yankees need this depth tucked away in Triple-S to serve as viable replacements for those “just in case” moments.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
The son of Yankees great Don Mattingly, Preston is a 24-year-old former first-round draft pick whose career has not advanced beyond Class-A. Originally a middle infielder, he’s moved to the outfield and carries a .232/.276/.335 in six minor league seasons.
Looks like a depth move for one of the lower-level affiliates.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
When you talk about the minor leagues of baseball, typically people think of three levels—Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A, with Single-A akin to an "introductory" class in college and Triple-A more like an advanced class you need to pass in order to graduate.
Of course, it is not that simple.
The New York Yankees have eight minor league affiliates at different levels based all around the country and in the Dominican Republic.
They are as follows, in order of highest level to lowest:
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees: Triple-A
Trenton Thunder: Double-A
Tampa Yankees: High-A
Charleston RiverDogs: Low-A
Staten Island Yankees: Short-Season Low-A
Gulf Coast League Yankees: Rookie
Dominican Summer League Yankees 1: Rookie
Dominican Summer League Yankees 2: Rookie
There is virtually no difference between DSL1 and DSL2, other than that the Yankees are one of three teams, along with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs, who have two teams in the Dominican Summer League.
Noesi will only be a starter in 2012, according to Brian Cashman. Last year, John Sickels ranked Noesi as the number five prospect in the system and gave him a grade B, stating that he loves "the control+velocity combo." With good velocity and command, Noesi may have what it takes to be the organization's next Ivan Nova. The only thing standing in the way of that as of now is a lack of innings, but that is about to be addressed with the upcoming season.
Plenty of ink has been spilled about the Yankees' top pitching prospects in Betances and Banuelos, so there isn't much of a need to go into great detail. The pair each threw about ~130 innings last season between Double-A and Triple-A, leaving them in good shape to increase their innings and work on their command. Betances may be running out of time on the prospect clock, but Banuelos, who will turn just 21 in March, has plenty of time to work out command issues. Both were graded as borderline B+ prospects according to Sickels.
Finally, the rotation is rounded out by Adam Warren and David Phelps, who could receive extended looks this Spring Training. The two are thought to be Major League ready, though they lack upside. According to Sickels, Phelps could be a fourth starter if given a chance, and Warren, with his ability to eat innings with decent stuff, could get a good look to be a starter for most teams.
For most teams, Triple-A is a place to keep players ready in case they are needed at the Major League level. For the Yankees, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre will not only provide depth, but possible upside. There's a lot to be excited about with these five pitchers.
Here is the latest post ranking the top Yankees prospects and the first one that doesn’t have Jesus Montero‘s name stamped on the top of it. This one comes via Dave Gershman of Beyond the Box Score and is different from typical prospect rankings because he does it by tiers instead of just ranking them as No. 1, No. 2, and so on. He also ranks 12, not 10 or 20, a random number, but I like it.
As with anything I link to, I suggest that you click through and support the original writer’s website. Besides, how else are you going to find out what each tier means? Here is the list:
Tier 1 (4 points): Major League Star -- Number One Starter
Tier 2 (3 points): Stand Out/Above Average Regular -- Number Two/Exceptional Three Starter
Tier 3 (2 points): Solid, Average, Every Day Regular -- Number Three/Solid Four Starter
Tier 4 (1 point): Bench/Below Average Regular -- Borderline Four/Number Five Starter/Relief Pitcher
The Yankees traded away more than just everyone’s favorite prospect when they agreed to send Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda last week, they also traded away their only impact bat at the upper levels of the minors. Jorge Vazquez has the gaudy stats, but he isn’t exactly young and there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about his ability to contribute in the bigs. Austin Romine is a quality prospect, but more for his well-rounded game than pure offense. Brandon Laird can hit, but not like Montero.
With no impact bat on the horizon and a lineup that isn’t getting any younger, Gary Sanchez has suddenly became a very important cog in the Yankees’ machine. Despite being just 19 years old and with fewer than 600 pro plate appearances to his credit, he’s the best offensive prospect in the system with Montero on the way out, a right-handed bat offering power and patience worthy of the $3M signing bonus the team gave him in 2009. He’s not as polished as Montero was at that age, but their offensive upside is comparable.
“Sanchez has a purer swing and more patience at the plate than Jesus Montero, to whom he’s often compared,” said Baseball America in the subscriber-only write-up of their top ten Yankees prospects list. “Sanchez has similar raw power, too, and scouts project him as a plus hitter in terms of both average and pop.”
That raw power was on full display in 2011, as Sanchez clubbed 17 homers in 343 plate appearances for Low-A Charleston. That matched Montero’s homer output at the same age and level in 2008, just in 226 fewer plate appearances. Sanchez also produced a .229 ISO in 2011, which is better than Montero’s best single-season power showing (.228 ISO in 2010). That said, it’s important to keep in mind that the reason Sanchez had such a relatively low number of plate appearances is because he was sent to Extended Spring Training for two weeks for disciplinary reasons before missing the final three weeks of the season with a sprained thumb.
As brilliant as his hitting tools are, Montero has never been one to draw many walks or post gaudy OBPs. Both he and Sanchez drew 36 walks in the minors this season, but the latter came to the plate 120 fewer times. Sanchez’s 10.4% walk rate this year was better than Montero’s best single-season walk rate (9.1% in 2010) by a not small margin. At the same time, Sanchez also struck out in 27.1% of his plate appearances this year, which is Chato territory. Montero’s worst strikeout rate came this year and was just 21.1%. Like I said, the hitting tools are similar, but Jesus was much more polished at the same age.
Sanchez’s defense lags behind his offense, but the general consensus is that he has a better chance to remain behind the plate long-term than Montero because he isn’t as big (listed at 6-foot-2, 220 lbs.). Reports on his defense this year we’re great, but at this point the glovework is secondary. As impressive as Dante Bichette Jr. and Ravel Santana were in their pro debuts this year, Sanchez is the team’s best hope of replacing the offense they’re trading away in Montero. He’s got the kind of power and patience needed to be a star hitter, but he also has more to work on than his prospect predecessor. Sanchez isn’t just a fun lottery ticket to follow anymore, he’s an important piece of the team’s future.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "
There has been and likely will continue to be a lot of great discussion surrounding the merits of the recent Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal, but I thought I would leave that topic largely alone in this post. Instead, the less-publicized acquisition of teenage RHP Jose Campos got me thinking about the Yankee farm, and in particular, the highly impressive array of talent that will likely be suiting up for the Yankees’ low-A club, the Charleston Riverdogs, next season.
Campos, who tore up the short-season Northwest League (equivalent to the New York-Penn League) for the Everett AquaSox is likely to be a fixture of Charleston’s 2012 rotation to begin the season. Since he has already pitched a season in the Northewest League, however, I imagine he will be on the fast track to Tampa if he repeats his dominant 2011 performance. The Sally League is not a tremendous jump in competition from the Northwest League, so it is certainly conceivable that Campos could have similar success there in his Yankee debut.
Campos will likely be joined in the Charleston rotation by several other intriguing Yankee prospects, including bonus babies Evan DeLuca and Bryan Mitchell. Both DeLuca and Mitchell have struggled with control on occasion, and their results have not yet matched their raw stuff. These pitchers will likely be supported by several of the Yankees’ most intriguing relief prospects in Phil Wetherell and Branden Pinder, both power arms who were able to pile up strikeouts in their short stays in Staten Island after being drafted. If he’s finally healthy, Caleb Cotham could start 2012 with Charleston, working out of the bullpen most likely.
In addition to their strength on the pitching side, the Riverdogs look to be deep in positional prospects as well. The Riverdog infield will likely include Dante Bichette at 3rd, Cito Culver at short, Angelo Gumbs at second, and either Rey Nunez or Tyler Austin at 1st (with Austin also getting some time at 3rd and DH possibly). Mason Williams will likely hold down centerfield for the Riverdogs (though he could be on the fast track if he tears it up from Day 1) and Ben Gamel will join him at one of the corners. Isaias Tejada, who raked last year in the GCL could wind up being the everyday catcher in Charleston (though more likely he ends up in Staten Island). If Tejada doesn’t make it to Charleston, catcher could be a bit of a weak spot, with glove-first guy Jhorge Liccien likely seeing the bulk of the playing time.
As a whole, the Riverdogs should be a very exciting team to follow next season. They will have a rotation and bullpen both full of hard-throwers, as well as a good mix of speed (Williams and Gumbs) and power (Bichette, Austin, Nunez) throughout the lineup. The group contains at least 6 of the Yankees’ top 20 prospects (Bichette, Williams and Campos are all top 10, plus Culver, Gumbs, and Austin) and a number of other guys who would get top 30 consideration (Pinder, Wetherell, Mitchell, and Gamel). There is also a lot of breakout potential in this group, as guys like Bichette and Williams in particular have the potential to shoot way up the prospect charts with strong seasons in Charleston (and elsewhere). Williams is probably the only guy in this group who would make the BA preseason Top 100, but he could be joined by several others from this squad if all goes according to plan.
"Never seen a payroll on a ring" "Leave the gun, take the cannoli "