Archive for April 4th, 2012

Meet The 2012 Thunder: Infielders

April 4, 2012

Infielders

24 David Adams R/R, 6-2, 190, 24 y/o

2011 stats: Tampa; .308/0/4.  GCL; .429/1/11.

2012 forecast: Adams will likely be the most scrutinized player on the Thunder this season.  Well, perhaps moreso his right ankle, anyway.  Once a highly touted infield prospect, Adams’ career was sidetracked in May of 2012 when he suffered a chip fracture in the aforementioned extremity.  The extent injury was believed to kill a Jesus Montero deal (remember that guy?) at the time, but more importantly, but Adams’ future in doubt.  Fast forward about two years, and he’s back in the home clubhouse at Waterfront Park, ready to prove that he’s still the same player, if not better.  The Yankees seem to believe in him, as they placed him on their 40-man roster this off-season.  But only time will tell if he can hold up as the team’s every day second baseman.  And if he does, if he’ll be as good as he was in 2010.

25 Walter Ibarra S/R, 5-11, 175, 24 y/o

2011 stats: Tampa; .297/6/52

2012 forecast: Remember when Walter Ibarra was on the Trenton Thunder?  It was all the way back in 2008, and even as a 20-year-old, he performed pretty well.  Ibarra played second, third and short for Trenton and hit .268 in 18 games.  He was a fill-in called up from Staten Island, and still need a lot of polish to his game before he ever got back.  It took him a while — he spent the last three seasons in Tampa — but he’s finally here.  Ibarra, and not Jose Pirela, will be the team’s regular shortstop.

15 Rob Lyerly L/R, 6-1, 200, 24 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; .246/4/34.  Tampa; .315/4/46

2012 forecast: Lyerly is a corner infielder who will probably see a lot of time as a designated hitter this year.  He performed well at the plate in Tampa, but struggled both with the bat and the glove once he got to Trenton.  He’ll need to improve significantly in both sides of his game to continue progressing through the system.  He took some reps at first base on Tuesday, so that could be an option as well.

17 Addison Maruszak R/R, 6-1, 190, 25 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; .244/7/47

2012 forecast: Versatility is a blessing and curse for Maruszak, who played a variety of positions for Trenton last season, including catcher.  While it seems unlikely he’ll get behind the plate again, Maruszak already profiles as a utility type instead of having a true spot.  It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used this year, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get another opportunity in Triple-A.

11 Yadil Mujica L/R, 6-1, 170, 27 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; .233/1/14

2012 forecast: It’s hard to really see Mujica having much of a future with the organization.  He’s 27 years old, is returning to Trenton for a second year, and didn’t really do much last year.  There’s been speculation that Mujica could be an odd man out when the roster gets trimmed down.  If he does stick, he’ll probably seem some time in the middle of the infield on occasion, and could spell Adams if he needs to rest his ankle.

10 Ronnier Mustelier R/R, 5-10, 210, 27 y/o

2011 stats: Tampa; .333/3/24

2012 forecast: The Trenton Thunder, now 100 percent more Ronnier!  Although, just like Mujica, Mustelier is 27 years old, he’s a more interesting case.  Mustelier was sent to the Arizona Fall League this off-season, and could have an outside chance at a future with the organization, but he needs to move quick.  He played all three outfield positions last year, but also some second and third.  Seems the stocky Cuban-born Mustelier will stick to the infield for now.

28 Jose Pirela R/R, 5-11, 210, 22 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; 239/8/45

2012 forecast: Pirela is likely thankful that his error total isn’t included in last year’s stat line.  While Lyerly tied a franchise record with four in one game, Pirela made 39 of them all season, which set a franchise record.  Last year, he was the starting shortstop.  This year, he’ll be on the bench. 

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98

Meet The 2012 Thunder: Catchers

April 4, 2012

Catchers

13 Mitch Abeita R/R, 5-10, 195, 25 y/o

2011 stats: Tampa; .221/2/20

2012 forecast: As of now, Abeita is the Thunder’s backup backstop.  With the bizarre happenings at the big league level, however, things may change.  Gustavo Molina could be sent to Trenton as a sort of trickle-down after Francisco Cervelli was assigned to Triple-A.  Unlikely?  Sure.  But it could happen.  Abeita is in his fifth year in the Yankees organization and is a career .243 minor league hitter with eight home runs in 1,025 plate appearances.  He threw out a very impressive 47% of attempted basestealers last year (35 for 75) with Tampa and if he can hit more like he did in 2010, he could steal some playing time away from Jose Gil.

32 Jeff Farnham R/R, 6-1, 190, 24 y/o

2011 stats: Charleston; .232/2/12

2012 forecast: Farnham caught Andy Pettitte’s simulated game a few days ago.  That might be the last meaningful thing he gets to do for a bit.  The 24-year-old is slated to be the Thunder’s third catcher this season, and it’s unlikely he starts the season on the active roster.  He’s somewhat oddly played in Staten Island in 2010 after seeing some time in Charleston the year before, and he returned to the RiverDogs to play in 42 games in 2011.

55 Jose Gil R/R, 6-0, 205, 25 y/o

2011 stats: Scranton; .250/0/0.  Trenton; .253/6/35

2012 forecast: Gil is in his eighth season in the Yankees organization, and will be in Trenton for a fourth year.  Gil played in 79 games last year between Trenton (73) and Scranton, which was the most action he’d seen since 2007.  But this is the first time he’ll be the starting catcher for the Thunder after being behind Austin Romine for all or parts of the past two years.  It’ll be interesting to see what he does as “the guy,” as the Venezuelan-born 25-year-old showed he could be an offensive force on occasion last year.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98

Meet The 2012 Thunder: Relief Pitchers

April 4, 2012

RELIEF PITCHERS

30 Cory Arbiso RHP 6-2, 210, 25 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; 40 GP/ 9 GS.  5-5, 5.23 ERA.

2012 forecast: Arbiso comes into the season in better shape and with a new curveball.  Both have suited him well, as he was lights out in spring training.  The fan favorite struggled at times last season, but will likely fill the same role as he did in 2011, serving as the team’s long man and spot starter.  Much like Heyer, Arbiso could use a big year to continue climbing through the organization.

53 Preston Claiborne RHP  6-2, 225, 24 y/o.

2011 stats: Tampa; 38 GP/0 GS.  3-7, 3.11 ERA, 5 SV.

2012 forecast: Claiborne has moved quickly after being taken in the 17th round by the Yankees in 2010.  It’s hard to see him blowing through the system like others have in the past, and a full year at Double-A could do him some good.  He does have closing experience in the past, and will likely get some opportunities late in games with the Thunder.

54 Ryan Flannery RHP 6-2, 245, 26 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; 4 GP/0 GS.  0-0, 9.00 ERA.  Tampa; 36 GP/0 GS.  3-1, 1.24 ERA, 19 SV.

2012 forecast: Flannery will likely get more than a few chances to serve as the Thunder’s ninth inning man this season, despite struggling in his initial call-up to Double-A last season.  The Carlstadt, NJ native put up impressive numbers in the Florida State League last year and will get another chance in Trenton this year.

27 Lee Hyde LHP 6-2, 205, 27 y/o

2011 stats: Syracuse (AAA, Nationals); 42 GP/0 GS.  2-0, 5.68 ERA, 1 SV.

2012 forecast: Raise your hand if you’d heard of Lee Hyde before about a week ago.  Not seeing a lot of hands.  Hyde is the prototypical “outside of the organization, veteran arm for Double-A” type.  The bullpen’s only lefty, he could play a key role at times, although Tony Franklin rarely plays matchups.  Given Hyde’s experience, he could also be on the Double-A/Triple-A shuttle if a veteran arm is needed a level above.

3 Kelvin Perez RHP 6-1, 160, 26 y/o

2011 stats: Tampa; 8 GP/0 GS, 0-0, 6.43 ERA, 1 SV.  Charleston; 39 GP/0 GS, 0-4, 4.66 ERA, 8 SV.

2012 forecast: Right now the Thunder roster stands at 27.  It needs to get cut down to 25.  You look at Perez’s experience level, and he’d certainly have to be a candidate to start the season on the “phantom DL.”  The Dominican-born righty is in his eighth season in the organization and didn’t put up impressive numbers at either stop he made last year. 

20 Ryan Pope RHP 6-2, 205, 25 y/o

2011 stats: Scranton; 14 GP/0 GS.  2-1, 8.14 ERA.  Trenton; 13 GP/1 GS.  0-1, 2.04 ERA.

2012 forecast: Pope has little left to prove in Double-A, and was somewhat of a surprise shift to the Thunder roster at the last minute in favor of Pat Venditte.  Pope has been used in a late-inning role by Franklin before, and it’s possible that he could be the guy doing that again this year so as to best showcase him for another promotion.  This is a big year for Pope, who both must pitch well and stay healthy after being taken off the Yankees 40-man roster last season.

48 Chase Whitley RHP 6-4, 220, 22 y/o

2011 stats: Trenton; 19 GP/1 GS.  3-4, 3.38 ERA, 1 SV.  Tampa; 23 GP/0 GS.  1.68 ERA, 6 SV.

2012 forecast: Whitley is the lone Baseball America Top 30 prospect you’ll find in the Thunder bullpen.  In just his first pro season, Whitley was impressive at High-A Tampa, but couldn’t dominate in Trenton the way he could there.  Whitley says fastball command is a key for him this season, but he’ll need to refine his secondary pitches a little bit as well in order to keep progressing.  Whitley is another legitimate candidate for late-game duty.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98

Meet The 2012 Thunder: Starting Pitchers

April 4, 2012

Starting Pitchers

19 Shaeffer Hall LHP 6-1, 205, 24 y/o.

2011 stats: Trenton; 26 GP, 24 GS.  10-8, 4.12 ERA, 1 SV.

2012 forecast: Hall will serve as the Thunder’s Opening Day starter this year, and a hot start to his season could earn him another promotion to Triple-A.  Hall is probably the most polished pitcher among the five in the rotation to start the season, and could see significant time with the Empire State Yankees depending on how things play out with the big league pitching staff.

31 Craig Heyer RHP 6-3, 210, 26 y/o.

2011 stats: Trenton; 28 GP, 24 GS.  10-9, 4.54 ERA.

2012 forecast: Heyer has shown that he can be a versatile member of the pitching staff in Trenton.  He also has shown a bit of a propensity for repeating levels (he spent two years in Tampa and this is his second in the capital city), which does him no favors considering he enters the season at the age of 26.  Once highly regarded enough to be sent to the Arizona Fall League, this is a big season for Heyer in the Yankees organization.  Solid but not spectacular, he’ll need to be better this year if he’s going to get a regular turn in the rotation.

21 Brett Marshall RHP 5-11, 200, 22 y/o.

2011 stats: Tampa; 27 GP, 26 GS.  9-7, 3.78 ERA.

2012 forecast: If you’re buying your tickets this year based on the staring pitcher, Marshall is the kid you’re paying to see.  Regarded as the biggest prospect on the Thunder, at least to start the season, the 22-year-old will be the team’s third starter to open the year.  He possesses a low-to-mid 90’s fastball and a slider, but pitching coach Tommy Phelps seemed most impressed with his changeup.  He’ll make his Double-A debut in the day game Saturday against another top pitching prospect, Deck McGuire.

23 Josh Romanski LHP 6-0, 185, 25 y/o.

2011 stats: Trenton; 13 GP, 1 GS.  0-1, 2.04 ERA.  Tampa; 17 GP, 17 GS.  7-5, 3.16 ERA.

2012 forecast: Romanski opens the season as the Thunder’s fifth starter, and is slated to take the ball for the first time on April 10.  One of two lefties in the rotation, the easygoing California native will have a slightly lower arm slot in order to better attack left-handed hitters.  It’s easy to see a scenario in which Romanski could be transitioned back to the bullpen, as he showed last season he can be effective as a reliever, and likely doesn’t have the stuff to continue progressing as a starter in the organization long-term.  Then again, many said the same thing about Steve Garrison, and the Yankees insisted on using him every fifth day.

39 Graham Stoneburner RHP 6-0, 203, 24 y/o.

2011 stats: Trenton; 11 GP, 11 GS.  1-5, 4.17 ERA.

2012 forecast: David Adams isn’t the only member of this team who had somewhat of a lost 2011 season.  Stoneburner began the year in Trenton, but made just a handful of starts before a neck/shoulder issue shut him down for the majority of the season.  He made just 11 appearances in Trenton last season, and went from a fringy prospect to somewhat of an afterthought.  But the 24-year-old will be given every opportunity to reclaim his status as an arm to watch as the second starter in the Thunder rotation.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98

Whitley Looking To Build Off First Full Season

April 4, 2012

Of the 12 players currently on the Trenton Thunder pitching staff, only Brett Marshall is younger than 22-year-old righty reliever Chase Whitley.  Whitley, along with fellow bullpen mate Preston Claiborne, were assigned to the Arizona Fall League last season, a prestigious prospect showcase of sorts that produces more big leaguers than failures.

The Yankees certainly think Whitley will be the former instead of the latter, as do many who’ve seen the Ranburne, Ala. native on the mound.  Whitley is ranked as the 29th-best prospect in the New York system by Baseball America, but the humble hurler tries to avoid thinking about the lofty expectations surrounding him.

“I just try to control what I can control,” he said.  “Every day, I just want to go out there and try to get a little bit better.”

After spending most of the 2010 season with Short Season-A Staten Island, he graduated to a full year of pro ball last year, splitting the year between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.  After posting a 1.68 ERA in 23 appearances with Tampa, he struggled a bit upon arriving in Trenton, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 19 outings.

“Last season was such a year where I was learning so much, with it being my first season,” said the Yankees 15th round draft choice in 2010.

“This year, it’s taking what I learned last year, putting it on the field and seeing what happens.  I learned how to be a professional and how to go about how to work and how each and every day is just a grind.  It’s the first time I’d ever played that many games in a season, so I just need to go out there and see how it goes.”

Clairborne and Whitley are the only two members of the 2010 Yankees draft class on the Thunder roster so far.  Mason Williams and Cito Culver are certainly well on their way, but predictably, it’s two pitchers that got there first.  For what it’s worth, Whitley doesn’t feel like people are expecting too much of him given his impressive progression.

“I’m under the radar, man,” he said.  “I’m a 15th round pick, people don’t expect much.  I just hope to go out there and do the best I can and see what happens.”

For Whitley, the key this season will be fastball command.  His slider and changeup are regarded as his two best, but with a fastball that sat around 90 MPH last season at Waterfront Park, he’s going to need to spot it a little better this year.

“I need to throw the ball where I want to throw it,” he said.  “I need to continue to work on my off-speed stuff and master that and throw those pitches in fastball counts.  But the fastball, everything plays off the fastball.  You get strike one, you can go with your stuff.  So far this spring, it’s been real good.  We’ll see how it goes this season.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Adams Ready To Put Best Foot Forward

April 4, 2012

It feels like forever ago that David Adams was in a Trenton Thunder uniform.  Really, it’s only been two seasons, but surely it’s felt longer than that to the 24-year-old second baseman.

Adams had a knack for hitting wherever he went, and he didn’t disappoint with the Thunder early on.  He played in 37 games through the first six weeks of the season and hit .309 in 173 plate appearances, posting a .900 OPS along the way. 

And then he got hurt. 

Days turned into weeks.  Weeks turned into months.  Short of a 29 game stint between two lower level Yankees farm teams last season, months turned into the better part of two wasted seasons for Adams, who never seemed to fully recover from a fractured ankle.

“When he got hurt, he was having a heck of a year,” said Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin.  “In my opinion, I think he was on his way to the big leagues.  That’s the kind of season he was having.  If he can do that again, we still have a Major League player.”

For now, however, Adams returns to Trenton to hone his craft.

“It’s been a long road, almost two years now,” he said.  “But I’m ready to get back at it.  It’s been long.”

The recovery process, the Margate, Fla. native says, has allowed him to gain a much better perspective on how fortunate he is to be able to play at all.

“I think when something like that happens, it allows you to take a step back and just have a bigger appreciation for what you do.  I think sometimes, us as baseball players, we take things for granted.  I think that’s one thing I probably won’t do as much now.  I’m just going to go out, have fun and enjoy what I do.  Every day, I see my name in the lineup, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.  That’s for sure.”

Adams has never been a guy who’s had much to say.  He lets his bat do the talking, for the most part. 

“I’m just anxious to play, that’s the bottom line,” Adams said. 

And he should get plenty of playing time if his ankle holds up, which will cetainly be one of the key storylines to follow with this year’s team.

“There’s day when it’s stiff, but ultimately if I just listen to my body…it’s felt great the last month I’ve been out there in the field,” he said.  “So, some days it won’t.  And I’ve just got to be smart on those days.  Honestly, (the goal this year) is just to stay healthy.  There’s always room to improve with baseball skills, but if I can just stay healthy I feel like good things can happen.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98

Romanski “Slotted” For Trenton Rotation This Year

April 4, 2012

Truth be told, Josh Romanski didn’t really deserve to get sent back down to Tampa last season.  The 25-year-old Corona, California native pitched quite well out of the Thunder bullpen last year after being plucked out of the Tampa rotation.

The lefty was up for about five weeks, but made quite an impression by pitching to a 2.04 ERA in 13 outings in his first foray in Double-A.  But he was sent back down to Tampa to finish the season, and it was unclear if he’d even return to the Yankees organization.

“That was frustrating to get sent down, but the people in the organization made it clear to me that it’s nothing that you did in Trenton that made you deserve to get sent down,” he said.

“I wasn’t too upset about it.  Obviously, they re-signed me this off-season, so I feel like they definitely have interest in me as a player.  It wasn’t too bad.  It’s disappointing any time you get sent down to a level below you, but it’s part of the game.  Sometimes, it happens.”

Well, not only is Romanski back, but he’s returning in the rotation.  He’ll begin the season as Trenton’s fifth starter, which he first found out about around the middle of spring training.

“I’m ready to accept the challenge, I’m excited about it,” Romanski said.  “I just want to to focus on giving my team a chance to win every fifth day.”

Every fifth day is certainly an adjustment from every few days for the affable southpaw, who says he’ll pitch a little differently than he did with the Thunder last year, in more ways than one.

“A pitcher like myself, who relies on changing speeds a lot, I might pitch a little differently as a starter now,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, it’s pitching and getting outs and executing pitches.”

As it turns out, Romanski will be trying to execute those pitches from a different arm slot this year.

“I dropped my arm slot a little bit so I’m not so over the top, just to be more effective against left-handed hitters,” he said.

“Last year, especially when I got up here, I struggled against left-handed batters, and as a left-handed pitcher, that’s something that I need to improve on.  I dropped my arm slot a little bit and got some pretty good feedback from that in spring training.  Nardi Contreras was the one who suggested that to me, and I went with it.  I think it’s going to end up being a very good adjustment for me.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: mashmore98

David Phelps Is A Yankee; Kontos Dealt

April 4, 2012

David Phelps is the latest former Thunder player to graduate to the big leagues.

The New York Yankees 2012 season has yet to get underway, but it seems David Phelps has already picked up the first win. The Yankees have confirmed the 25-year-old righty beat out fellow Thunder alums Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell to win the final spot in the Bronx Bombers bullpen today.

In addition, former Thunder pitcher George Kontos was traded to the San Francisco Giants for catcher Chris Stewart.

Phelps made 14 starts for Trenton in 2010, and went 6-0 with a 2.04 ERA. Overall, he boasts a 38-15 career minor league record with a 2.61 ERA, with a solid 1.184 WHIP and 0.6 HR/9.

Last season, he battled injuries with Triple-A Scranton, but still put together a strong season and was the in-house candidate to make a spot start in the middle of the season before Brian Gordon was signed.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98


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