The long awaited breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees prospects from this season is finally here, and as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve got the Thunder’s new lead broadcaster, Steve Rudenstein, on board to provide some analysis for this.
Steve’s done a great job of providing his expert analysis on each player, and I’ll throw my “Thunder Thoughts” in there after each of his player breakdowns.
As for Steve’s work, you should know that the below commentary are opinions solely from Steve Rudenstein, and do not represent the opinions of the Trenton Thunder (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the New York Yankees.
#26 RHP J.B. Cox – Cox was on the fast-track after helping lead Texas to a 2005 College World Series championship, and continuing that success to Tampa and Trenton. Then his progress came to a screeching halt when he lost all of 2007 to Tommy John surgery. The timing of the injury is most unfortunate. A healthy Cox almost certainly would have made his major league debut with the Yankees in 2007. Cox needs to be as patient as possible in recovering from the injury (easier said than done of course). He isn’t expected to be ready for Spring Training and probably won’t see game action until mid-summer. If he can return to his pre-injury form, this fastball/slider set-up man could eventually give the Yankees huge help in the middle innings.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Steve’s absolutely right, Cox was pretty much on his way to the Bronx in 2007 before his elbow injury shut him down. One thing that isn’t discussed that often is that the Yankees may have done this to themselves, as Cox suffered the injury during an Olympic Qualifying Tournament late in the 2006 season. Cox was lost for the Eastern League playoffs, and hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch since. It’s very possible his rehab path will take him back to Trenton, but it’s unlikely he’d stay there very long.
#27 3B/SS Mitch Hilligoss – Along the same lines on the prospect list as Colin Curtis, Hilligoss doesn’t exhibit incredible tools, but has the make-up to keep advancing up the ladder. He made a name for himself last season by setting a South Atlantic League record with a 38-game hitting streak. He also led the league in hits with 161. Defensively, Hilligoss played at third base and shortstop last season with Charleston, and has the ability to play anywhere in the infield. According to those within the organization, he has tremendous leadership skills. In March, the Yankees will have to figure out which level (Tampa or Trenton) to place a handful of infielders, including Hilligoss. With a good spring, Hilligoss could skip Tampa and start the season with the Thunder.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: In time, Hilligoss may become one of the most valuable members of the Yankees farm system. He’s a guy who can flat out rake, and his versatility is a tremendous asset to whatever team he’s on. While he’s not considered a top prospect, his hitting streak garnered him a lot of national attention, and there’s a lot of anticipation for his eventual call-up to Trenton.
#28 RHP Scott Patterson – Patterson has journeyed from Division II West Virginia State, to Non-Affiliated baseball, to the Yankees Organization and now to their 40-man roster. Patterson’s biggest asset is his tall, lanky delivery. Hitters have a lot of trouble picking up the ball out of his hand, and don’t take good swings against him. He has a fastball that hits the low-90s and a big loopy curveball. Last season, he had phenomenal year in Trenton going 4-2 with a 1.09 ERA in 43 appearances. He also struck out 91 and only walked 15 in 74 IP. If all continues to go well for Patterson, he will make his major league debut at some point in 2008.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: I can tell you first hand that the Atlantic League is no joke. People have varying perceptions of independent ball, but the Atlantic League is a veteran league that can have as many as 50-60 players with big league time on the league’s eight rosters at any given time. A lot of people compare the level of play in that league to a Double-A or Triple-A level, so considering Patterson’s video game numbers with the Lancaster Barnstormers, it’s no surprise that he was able to keep that going with the Thunder. After his numbers were seemingly ignored for a season and a half, Patterson has finally earned a spot on the 40-man roster, and figures to play a role in the Yankees bullpen at some point during the 2008 season.
#29 RHP Edwar Ramirez – As with finding Patterson, Yankees scouts also deserve a lot of credit in finding Ramirez. After a failed stint in the Angels’ Organization, Ramirez was signed by the Yankees from Non-Affiliated baseball in 2006. The tall, wiry Ramirez had a breakthrough 2007 season. Displaying a dominant change-up, Ramirez made quick work of Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before debuting with the Yankees in July. He was used inconsistently out of the bullpen by Joe Torre, and had erratic results. Ramirez needs a second pitch to emerge if he hopes to sustain success at the major league level. There are also questions about his scrawny frame holding up over time. The affable Ramirez does have a lot of people within the organization rooting for him.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Ramirez’s changeup is one of the dirtiest pitches in the game, but as Steve said, he’s going to need something else to establish himself as a big leaguer. For as hard as it is to make the big leagues, it’s exponentially more difficult to stay. Edwar’s biggest issue, as far as getting back to the Bronx goes, is the sheer amount of competition he has for only a handful of available spots. Thunder alums Alan Horne, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Marquez have all been mentioned as potential bullpen candidates, and all have higher ceilings than Ramirez.
#30 RHP Zach McAllister – A third round selection in the 2006 draft, McAllister is another right-hander with a big build. However, at 6’5” 230 pounds, he doesn’t currently throw as hard as some of the other right-handed prospects. At this point in his career, he is comparable to RHP Jason Jones who has pitched for the Thunder in parts of the last two seasons. The Yankees have adjusted his arm slot in hopes of making him more of a power pitcher. He finished third in the New York-Penn League in strikeouts (75 in 71 IP) and made 15 starts for Staten Island. He will head to Charleston and anchor their rotation in 2008.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: McAllister is probably a year or two away from Trenton, but that’s if he gets there at all. He’s had some inconsistent outings, and the amount of depth that the Yankees organization has doesn’t work in his favor. I got to see McAllister pitch against the Cyclones in Brooklyn, and the results were mixed. He showed flashes of why he’s on this list, but also showed why people have concerns about his long term future. Of the players on this list from 26 through 30, you could certainly make a case that McAllister has the most to gain from a solid 2008.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com