Looking Back: The 2005 Top 30…

The 2004 post seemed to get a pretty decent reaction, so it’s time to continue the series and take a look at Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects from 2005.

It should be interesting to see how far these guys have progressed, or in some cases, how far they’ve fallen over the course of just three years.

1. Eric Duncan, 3B

The 2005 season was somewhat of a mixed bag for one Eric Anthony Duncan.  He hit a then career low .235 in his first season with the Thunder, but also hit 19 home runs and drove in 61 runs.  He also struck out 136 times in 451 at-bats, but has since improved that ratio. 

“If you succeed at the plate three out of ten times, you’re in the Hall of Fame,” Duncan told me in 2006.

“This game has so much failure in it, that you have to have confidence. If you don’t, you’re going to make it that much tougher for yourself. No matter where they put you, you have to trust yourself.”

Still, if you look at the names on this list and look at where Duncan’s career has gone since, it’s hard to believe he was on top of many of the players here.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B

This was the year where Cano established himself as the New York Yankees starting second baseman after a brief stay in Triple-A Columbus.

“For all the bad things you hear about baseball with the steroids and the black marks on the game, Robby Cano is what’s good about baseball,” Former Thunder manager Bill Masse said.

“He loves to have fun and he’s always got a smile on his face.”

As for Cano…

“I love Trenton,” Cano said during his 2006 rehab stay.

“I remember back in 2003 when I came here for my first game, it was in the second half. That’s something I’m always going to remember, my first day.”

3. Phil Hughes, P

This was a year before Hughes made his long awaited appearance in a Thunder uniform.  Johan Santana or not, it would seem to be a very poor choice if the Yankees decide to trade Hughes.

He has a career minor league ERA of 2.09.  That’s not a typo there.  He’s really got a 2.09 ERA in 275 innings with a .178 batting average against.

4. Steven White, P

Steven White / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

White didn’t exactly establish himself during the 2005 season, going 2-7 with a 6.44 ERA in 11 starts with the Thunder.  His .296 batting average against remains a career high.

5. Christian Garcia, P

Garcia, the Yankees third rounder in 2004, pitched pretty well in 2005.  He went 5-6 with a 3.91 ERA for Single-A Charleston, and was probably on pace to reach Double-A Trenton at some point last season.  However, he didn’t pitch at all last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

6. Marcos Vechionacci, INF

I finally got to see Vechionnaci for the first time during the 2007 Eastern League playoffs, and I think I’m a little higher on him than most people.  He might have developed a little more slowly than people might have expected, but the tools are definitely there with this kid, and the thought of a lineup with him, Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson is pretty amazing.

7. Melky Cabrera, OF

2005 was Cabrera’s only season in Waterfront Park, and the then 20-year-old hit .275 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI in 106 games.  He also made his Major League debut that season — on national TV against the Boston Red Sox, if I remember correctly — and will be a factor in the Yankees outfield mix this season.

8. Bronson Sardinha, 3B/OF

Sardinha spent his only full season with the Thunder in 2005, making the transition from third baseman to outfielder.  He actually had a pretty decent year, hitting .268, tying a career high with 12 home runs and setting a new career high for RBI with 68. This off-season, Sardinha brought his 20-letter middle name (Kiheimahanaomauiakeo) and .266 career average to the Seattle organization.

9. Chien-Ming Wang, P

Wang was one year removed from his final season with the Thunder, and would make his Major League debut in late April of 2005.  I was fortunate enough to be watching from the bleachers when he picked up his first big league victory against the Seattle Mariners.

It’s hard to argue with 38 wins in two seasons of work…

10. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez was a supplemental first rounder in the 2004 draft, and spent all of 2005 in Single-A Charleston.  He posted a 9-13 record with a 3.42 ERA and set a career high of 107 strikeouts that still stands.

11. Brett Smith, P

Smith’s 2007 season was documented in the last post, but his 2005 campaign was actually his first pro year.  He was the Yankees second rounder in 2004, and actually has a losing career record (22-28) and ERA over four (4.20).  If he could ever get his walk totals down (156 BB / 309 K) he might be able to develop the consistency that had him at #11 on this list just three years ago.

12. Rudy Guillen, OF

Chants of Rudy at Waterfront Park are now only reserved for the Thunder’s new Director of Broadcasting, Steve Rudenstein.  Guillen played the last month of the 2005 season in Trenton, and hit .257 in 109 at-bats.  As mentioned earlier though, he essentially fell apart the following year and converted to a pitcher in 2007.

13. Jesse Hoover, P

Hoover was once one of the hottest prospects in the Yankees system after tearing up the New York-Penn League to the tune of a 2-1 record and 1.78 ERA in 16 appearances.  But a back injury derailed his career until last season, where he pitched for the first time since his coming out party with Staten Island.  At 26, and with his level of experience to date, his window to get to the big leagues is rapidly closing, but he could be a candidate for Trenton if he can stay healthy.

14. Tim Battle, OF

Battle, who courageously fought off a form of bone cancer earlier in his career, took a nosedive the following season after hitting just .133 with Single-A Tampa in 128 at-bats before being sent back down to Charleston.  Last year, in a full year with Tampa, he hit a mere .218.

15. Matt DeSalvo, P

DeSalvo has to rank among one of my favorite people I’ve interviewed in my career, just because I never had any idea what the hell he was going to say next.  The best way I could describe him was the way I did in my 2006 feature on him that appeared in the Democrat…

Answers to questions will often involve questions of his own, or quotes from the increasingly long list of books he’s read that relate to what you’ve asked. Long, thoughtful pauses make talking with the 25-year-old feel more like a chess match than a conversation, with every move and every word carefully chosen.

16. Eduardo Sierra, P

This was the year Sierra was dealt from Trenton in mid-season.  He recently signed with the Oakland Athletics organization.

17. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard continued his rise through the system in 2005, leading the Florida State League in strikeouts with 169.  He would accomplish the same feat a season later in Mercer County.

18. Andy Phillips, 1B/3B

Phillips ended up playing parts of four seasons with the Yankees, hitting .253 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 479 at-bats.  This off-season, he inked a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

19. Abel Gomez, P

Gomez lasted one more year in the Yankees organization before the Phillies took a chance on him in 2007.  The same control problems that marked his time with the Yankees did him in there as well, as he posted a 29.08 ERA in four games against New York-Penn League competition.

He then became the latest in a long line of ex-Yankee prospects to head to independent baseball, but he bombed there as well, putting up an ERA of over 22 in four games with the Nashua Pride of the Can-Am League.

20. Jon Poterson, OF

Drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2004, Poterson couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag and lasted just three seasons in their system before ending up with the Chillicothe Paints of the independent Frontier League.

That assessment might sound a little harsh, but the guy hit .202 for the GCL Yanks in 2004, .173 in Charleston and .247 for Staten Island in 2005, and .167 and .163 for Charleston and Staten Island in 2006, respectively.  Things did not improve in 2007, where playing in one of the lower tiers of competition of independent ball, he hit just .231.

21. Sean Henn, P

Sean Henn / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2005)

This was the season where he was called up to the show right out of Trenton…

“I was going after guys, my confidence level was through the roof,” Henn told me this season.

“I felt like I was ready to go. I’d never pitched in the big leagues before, but once I got out here and looked at these Major League hitters and how to approach them in different ways, I saw that there was a lot I’d have to learn to be successful. Throwing offspeed pitches when you’re behind in the count, things like that. I felt I was ready, but I don’t know if I showed that.”

22. Scott Proctor, P

Proctor, who never appeared in a Thunder uniform, just signed a new deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

23. Ramon Ramirez, P

As was the case with Eduardo Sierra, this was the season where Ramirez’s stint in the Yankees organization came to an end.

24. Jason Jones, P

Jason Jones / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Jones is inexplicably an afterthought when people talk about some of the better arms in the system.  Granted, the numbers might not be there like they are for some of the true elite prospects, but it seems like he’s always been the sixth starter or the guy who’s always taking one for the team if the rotation needs tweaking.  I honestly think he’d better off in another organization, one with significantly less pitching depth.

25. Kevin Thompson, OF

Kevin Thompson / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2004)

One of the more exciting players in Thunder history, his 101 stolen bases in a Trenton uniform were a franchise record for a little while until it was broken by Justin Christian.  Oddly enough, the emergence of Christian and Brett Gardner may have been what led to Thompson being deemed expendable.

26. Ben Julianel, P

Julianel set a career high with 106 strikeouts in 2005 with Trenton.

27. Mario Holmann, 2B

Holmann was released by the Yankees last season after failing to get past Single-A Tampa, which was partially based on an inability to hit for any power whatsoever.  But when his average sank to .179 last season, he became expendable and hasn’t resurfaced anywhere since.

28. Hector Made, SS

Looks like he made it?  Not quite.  Made spent another year in the Yankees system before being dealt to Philly.

29. Omir Santos, C

Pito will be in the Orioles organization for 2008, after spending seven years with the Yankees.  He played his first of parts of three seasons with the Thunder in 2005, setting a career high with 10 home runs.

30. Maximo Nelson, P

Nelson never pitched on American soil for the Yankees, and played in the Israel Baseball League in 2007.  He was reportedly clocked at 96 miles per hour during the IBL All-Star Game.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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6 Responses to “Looking Back: The 2005 Top 30…”

  1. Mike R. Says:

    Hey Mike:

    Thank you for this incredible blog. Truly A+ work. Please keep it up. I was starving for some Thunder content last season. I think a lot of other people were as well.

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    Welcome to the blog, I’m glad you enjoy it. I figured it was about time I started something like this. I really enjoy covering the Thunder, and am looking forward to my third season of covering the team.

    Feel free to comment or ask questions whenever you’d like.

  3. Mike R. Says:

    How excited are you about a Thunder outfield that should include Tabata, Jackson and Curtis? Do you think that they would be the best OF group you’ve seen so far?

  4. thunderbaseball Says:

    Tabata and Jackson are no-brainers there. If everything I’ve heard about Tabata is true, then there’s no doubt that he and Jackson will be what Navarro and Cano were to the Thunder a few years back. It’s rare that two of an organization’s elite prospects will be playing for the same team at the same time — at least it has been in Trenton — so the two of them together should be exciting.

    I got to see Jackson during the EL Playoffs, and the kid was impressive. Humble, too. He put on quite a performance out there, and he was giving the “I just wanted to go out there and play baseball like I have been my whole life” line after the game. He didn’t seem to me to be a guy who’s going to get caught up in his own hype.

    My concern is with Curtis. The guy is a great story and is a gamer, but he struggled a little bit with the jump to Double-A pitching, in my opinion. His OPS was a career low .627, as was his .242 batting average.

    However, with that said, I think he’s shown that he’s enough of a pure hitter at the lower levels of the minors that a full season at Double-A is going to be really good for his development. I don’t think he’ll ever be regarded as highly as Tabata or Jackson.

    There are some people who think he might go straight to Triple-A, and I think that would be a big mistake…if the Yankees learned anything from Eric Duncan, they should know not to rush someone through the system.

    In terms of whether it’s the best OF I’ve seen…on paper, it probably is. But Curtis isn’t set in stone to start at Double-A, and Tabata could struggle just like Curtis did. Ask me that a month into the season, and I’ll have a better answer…

  5. River Ave. Blues » Mike Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts Says:

    […] already taken a look back at what happened to the Yanks’ best prospects from 2004 and 2005, and he’s currently in the middle of counting down the 20 best moments of the Thunder’s […]

  6. Looking Back: The 2007 Top 30… « Mike Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts Says:

    […] sure you also check out my looks back from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 […]

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