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May Farm Report

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.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver