Better late than never, right?
There are just a few weeks left in the minor league season, so my next Farm Report will serve as a summary of the season as a whole. That makes this my last mid-season update. Here’s my June Farm Report, which in turn links to May, etc.
The big news in Scranton was the fact that three of the team’s starting pitchers were shipped to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady deal. With Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jeff Karstens out of the system, the Scranton rotation now consists of a rehabbing Phil Hughes, three-time loser Ian Kennedy, the unwanted Kei Igawa, and double-A call-ups Alfredo Aceves, and lefty Chase Wright. When Kennedy was called up to start for the Yankees, Jason Jones was called up from Trenton to fill his spot. Jones has since been sent back to Trenton, but I expect he’ll be recalled when Phil Hughes is called back to the bigs.
Hughes is scheduled to make his fifth rehab appearance on Sunday. In two outings for low-A Charleston, he pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just five baserunners (three hits and two walks). In two starts for Scranton, he’s posted a 2.70 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. In his last start, he struck out four in 5 1/3 innings while allowing just three hits and a walk. He’s likely to return to the major league rotation next weekend when the Yankees are in Baltimore.
Aceves has not pitched well in Scranton since having a groin injury delay the start of his triple-A career. In his four starts since stretching back out, Aceves has allowed four runs every time out, resulting in a 6.97 ERA over those four starts, which is paired with a 1.60 WHIP.
Wrote Chad Jennings last week, “To be honest, Aceves has more or less lived up to my expectation — he throws strikes and doesn’t miss by much when he misses — but hitters at this level seem to be having an easier time making solid, consistent contact than the hitters in Double-A and A ball. Triple-A is an adjustment, and Aceves is going through it. He allowed three hits in the second inning and four hits in the fourth, but he also sent the side down in order in both the first and the third. I don’t think he’s overmatched at this level, he’s just challenged at this level to be more than a guy who throws strikes.”
Wright, who went 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA in 16 double-A starts, has made just three starts for Scranton, the last of which was unimpressive. Jones, who went 11-5 with a 3.03 ERA in 21 starts for Trenton, pitched well in his two triple-A starts.
Out in the bullpen is where you’ll find Phil Coke, the lefty who was initially reported to be a part of the package for Nady. He’s pitched well in his new role, but could return to starting next year.
The big name in the Scranton bullpen is Mark Melancon, who has allowed just one run in 9 2/3 triple-A innings while allowing just six baserunners and striking out ten. Comming off surgery, Melancon has thrown 84 2/3 innings this season, which makes a big-league promotion unlikely (other than to let him hang out on the bench), but he seems sure to be in the picture for next year’s pen.
Things haven’t gone as well for J.B. Cox, who has a 6.75 ERA since the All-Star break. Cox’s isn’t getting hit particularly hard (he’s allowed just three home runs and 37 hits in 47 minor league innings this year), but he’s now walking more than he’s striking out.
More encouraging has been the performance of Steven Jackson, the last man standing from the deal that sent Randy Johnson back to the desert. Jackson has worked to improve his split-finger fastball, and has only allowed one earned run in 12 2/3 innings since the All-Star break, while striking out 15 against just three walks. On the season, he has 43 Ks in 40 1/3 triple-A innings. The least compelling of the four players obtained for Johnson, it would be quite a pleasant surprise to see Jackson have any sort of impact on the major league team.
On offense, Shelley Duncan has returned from his separated shoulder as a no contact hitter (in eight games he has 11 walks, 9 Ks, and three hits). Juan Miranda is hot (.301/.394/.484 since the All-Star break), but still has just 9 homers on the season. More compelling has been the performance of infielder Cody Ransom. Ransom has moved back to his old position of shortstop to fill the hole created when the Yankees traded Alberto Gonzalez. He’s also hit .241/.391/.540 since the All-Star break with seven home runs. Ransom has 22 homers on the season and can play all four infield positions. He also hits for a low average and strikes out a lot, which makes him the right-handed version of Wilson Betemit that Wilson Betemit batting right-handed isn’t. With Ransom moving to short, the Yankees have moved Eric Duncan back to third base in an attempt to increase his value. Duncan is hitting .190/.242/.310 with 30 Ks against five walks in 21 games since the All-Star break. I don’t think being able to play a bad third base is going to help at this point.
Ben Broussard has hit .292/.367/.646 with nine homers since the All-Star break while spending most of his time playing the outfield corners. In center, Brett Gardner is finally back in a groove, hitting .309/.409/.327 since the break.
Double-A Trenton Thunder
Right behind Gardner, Austin Jackson has hit a singles-heavy .309/.352/.433 since the break. Francisco Cervelli is finally back where he was supposed to start the year before suffering a broken arm in spring training. He’s only been with the Thunder for six games, but he’s hit the ground running by going 7 for 18. No one else in Trenton is hitting.
On the mound, the big story is Carl Pavano‘s rehab, which means there is no big story. Jeff Marquez just came off the DL with a decent four-inning rehab start, which only means that he’s doing better than Alan Horne (see below).
With Coke and Wright in Scranton and Jones likely to rejoin them soon, the notable pitching in Trenton has come out of the bullpen. Jhonny Nuñez, the 22-year-old righty reliever acquired from the Nationals for Alberto Gonzalez, has pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings for Trenton while striking out nine and walking just one. Jose Valdez, a 25-year-old righty who also pitched well for Tampa, has dominated since his late-June promotion, posting a 1.13 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP while striking out 17 in 16 innings against just three walks. Twenty-four-year-old Kevin Whelan has been similarly dominant since coming off the DL (0.84 ERA, 14 K and just 4 hits in 10 2/3 IP), but still needs to work on his high walk totals.
Less encouraging, Wilkins Arias, the 27-year-old lefty who dominated the Florida State League, has had mixed results in his first six double-A innings, and Steven White, who started the year as a triple-A starter on the 40-man roster, was released on Tuesday as a double-A reliever.
The main man to watch in Tampa is now 6-foot-6, 20-year-old right-hander Zach McAllister. Since his promotion from Charleston in late-May, McAllister has posted a 2.03 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 5.0 K/BB (thanks largely to his 1.24 BB/9) in 13 starts for Tampa. In July, he posted a 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and 8.33 K/BB (thanks to an increased strikeout rate and 3 walks in 36 IP). McAllister was the third player the Yankees drafted after Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy in 2006, but whereas the other two came out of college, McAllister was drafted out of high school. Give him two more years, and he could be knocking on the door of the major league rotation as a 22-year-old in late 2010.
Seeing a real pitching prospect like McAllister reveals the fallacy of treating someone like Alan Horne like he’s the next big thing. Horne is in Tampa, too, on the DL. Speaking of which, being a 25-year-old righty reliever in A-ball is unimpressive in and of itself, but Philip Bartelski deserves mention for his matching 1.07 ERA and WHIP and his 56 Ks in 50 2/3 innings.
Wilkins De La Rosa, the 23-year-old lefty who dominated the Sally League out of the Charleston pen finally got the bump up to high-A, but he’s moved up as a starter. He’s made just one start for Tampa thus far, so stay tuned.
Low-A Charleston RiverDogs
After a weak showing in May and June, Jesus Montero flipped the switch in July, hitting .341/.394/.527, and has since gone 21 for 51 with three homers in August. Fellow catching prospect Austin Romine has hit a singles-heavy .327 thus far in August, recalling his singles-heavy .351 in April, but otherwise hasn’t done much as the plate in his first professional season.
Like Montero, 20-year-old rehabbing pitching prospect Dellin Betances found himself in July upon returning from a short stint in the Gulf Coast League. In his last eight starts dating back to beginning of July, Betances has posted a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 50 Ks in 43 1/3 innings and, perhaps most encouragingly, just 16 walks and one home run allowed. Betances and 18-year-old righty Jairo Heredia combine with McAllister to give the Yankees an impressive second-wave of starting prospects in the low minors.
In the pen, 22-year-old righty Jonathan Ortiz is still waiting for the promotions given to the two Wilkins, but is still dominating. Since the mid-June All-Star break, he’s posted a 2.14 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and struck out 37 in 21 innings against just five walks and no homers.
Short-Season Staten Island
Switch-pitching sensation Pat Venditte is proving to be more than a novelty in the pros with a 1.14 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 28 Ks in 23 2/3 innings. Righty reliever Brad Rulon, the Yankees 34th-round pick out of Georgia Tech, has been even better with a 0.53 ERA and 50 Ks in 33 2/3 innings, though his walk rate has inflated his WHIP to 1.07. The trick is that both pitchers are college products, which means they’ve already played at a higher level. Similarly, the team’s best hitter younger than 25 has been shortstop Addison Maruszak, a University of South Florida product who’s hitting .318/.370/.493. High school infielder David Adams, who was taken in the third round and is still the highest pick to have signed with the Yankees from this year’s draft, is hitting .258/.333/.407 on the season, though he’s been getting hot in August.
Rookie-level Gulf Coast League
Rehabbing Humberto Sanchez has looked good in his ten appearances for the GCL Yankees (9 2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 HR, 4 BB, 13 K), but his results won’t really matter until he starts moving up in the system, which seems unlikely to happen until next year.
Righty releiver Ryan Flannery, a 47th-round pick out of Madison, New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, hasn’t walked a man in 20 2/3 innings and allowed only ten hits, none of them homers, in the same span for a 0.87 ERA and a 0.48 WHIP.
Nineteen-year-old infielder Corban Joseph, the Yankees’ fourth-round pick this year and the highest draft pick on the team, is hitting a solid .286/.365/.464 after a monster July (.354/.433/.595), and has walked almost as often as he’s struck out. Seventh-round pick Kyle Higashioka, an 18-year-old catcher is 8 for 22 on the season with just one walk and one extra-base hit. Fellow 18-year-old Christopher Smith, who was taken in the fifth round after hitting .700 as a high school senior, is hitting .140 in 86 at-bats.