Posts Tagged ‘Austin Jackson’

Game 6: Trenton @ Altoona

April 8, 2008

Game 6 – Trenton Thunder @ Altoona Curve
April 8, 2008
Blair County Ballpark – Altoona, PA

Pitching Matchup: TRE Chase Wright (0-1, 3.00) vs. ALT Kyle Bloom (0-1, 14.73)

Starting Lineups:

Trenton (3-2) (3-2 road record, 1-0 vs. Altoona)

1 – Ramiro Pena, SS
2 – Austin Jackson, CF
3 – Jose Tabata, RF
4 – Colin Curtis, LF
5 – Matt Carson, DH
6 – Cody Ehlers, 1B
7 – P.J. Pilittere, C
8 – Marcos Vechionacci, 3B
9 – Reegie Corona, 2B

Altoona (1-4) (1-4 home record, 0-1 vs. Thunder)

1 – Boone
2 – Cruz
3 – Pacheco
4 – Corley
5 – Delaney
6 – Bowers
7 – Webster
8 – Perez
9 – Finegan

Farm Fresh: In Charleston, Zach McAllister picked up the win last night.  Brad Suttle is smokin’ hot in the first week of the season, hitting .474 with a homer and three RBI.  The River Dogs have five other regular players hitting .300 or better: David Williams (.444), Justin Snyder (.357), Wady Rufino (.333), Austin Krum (.300) and Abe Almonte (.300).

Dellin Betances is 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA after a five-inning start, and Jesse Hoover has made two scoreless relief appearances, collecting a win along the way.

Edwar Gonzalez is hot in Tampa, hitting .278 with two home runs and seven RBI in his first five games.  He has accounted for all of his team’s longballs, and half of their RBI.  Mitch Hilligoss is also doing well for the T-Yanks, hitting .273, but he has made two errors already.

Mark Melancon, who all eyes will be on in Tampa until he’s inevitably shipped north to Trenton, is 0-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two games and 3.2 IP.

In Scranton — home to the lovely Pam Beesly, by the way – Jason Lane’s already got three home runs in the first five games of the year.  Brett Gardner has missed the past two games, but is 4-for-11 with one steal in his first three.

Alberto Gonzalez is hitting just .091 in his first four games, and Juan Miranda is 2-for-17 (.118) for the SWB Yanks.

Pre-Game Notes: The Thunder have announced that their new puppy will be named Derby.  Derby was the puppy the team kept from the litter that came from Chase, their bat-collecting, ball-delivering, loveable mascot.

Despite the Thunder playing Altoona ten million 17 times last year, Chase Wright did not face the Curve last year.  Kyle Bloom was picked in the fifth round by the Pirates in 2004, and is making his fourth career Double-A start. 

Starts one and two, made last year, went really well. 

Start three did not, as he comes in with a loss and 14.73 ERA next to his name. 

Of players considered prospects in the Pirates system, Baseball America has him dead last on the depth chart for lefty starters.

As expected, Daniel McCutchen has been pushed back a day, and will now go on his regular four days rest…meaning he gets the ball for the home opener on the 10th against Harrisburg. 

George Kontos is now slated to get the start tomorrow. 

The problem with that, of course, is that he’d now be going on three days rest.  He only went three innings on April 5th against Binghamton, so that may be the reasoning…but if he didn’t start, I wouldn’t be surprised either.

Remember Juan Francia?  He hit .198 in 31 games for the Thunder last year.  He’s resurfaced in the independent Atlantic League, signing with the Lancaster Barnstormers.  That’s the same team that Scott Patterson came from.  Jason Bowers, an infielder on Altoona, is a former teammate of Scott’s in Lancaster.

Radio Links: Click here for the links to each team’s broadcast.

Live Box Score: The MILB.com direct link is here.

Around the Eastern League: For scores from around the EL, go here.

In-Game Updates: I’ll be at the ballpark again starting Thursday, but these updates are from the comforts of the couch.  Anyway, it’s 4-1 Thunder in the top of the 5th.

The only big mistake Chase Wright has made so far was a second inning home run to Jason Bowers.

Reegie Corona’s got his first two RBI of the year, and Jose Tabata and Marcos Vechionacci have got the others.  Both Tabata and Austin Jackson have stolen a base as well.

Not a real great outing out of Altoona’s Kyle Bloom so far.  Four runs on five hits through four innings of work so far.

Bottom 7th, and Trenton is up 5-1 now.  Colin Curtis has driven in a run.  Chase Wright is out, Steven Jackson is in.  Wright’s line: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR. 

You’d like to see him go a little deeper, but that’s two straight solid performances out of Sebern Chase Wright.

A-Jax is the only Thunder player with two hits so far.

Final Score: 5-2, Thunder.

Post-Game Notes: Steven Jackson, ladies and gentlemen.  Three innings of relief, no hits, seven strikeouts.  Wow.

Two-hit nights for the top three in the order: Ramiro Pena, Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata. 

Another 0-fer out of Matt Carson, who has had two straight rough games now.

0-for-2 with two walks and two K’s for Cody Ehlers.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Thoughts Tuesday Power Rankings

April 8, 2008

Every Tuesday, for the purpose of creating discussion and giving you an idea of my thoughts on how each member of the Trenton Thunder roster is performing, I’ll be posting power rankings.

This has nothing to do with a player’s prospect status, it’s just my take on how the guys have been doing, 1 through 24 on the roster.  I’ll use stats, what I’ve seen and heard on my own, and opinions to compile these.  

I encourage you to agree, disagree…something, some sort of reaction.

NOTE: At this point of the season, previous season’s performance and player pedigree will play some sort of role, especially with me having only seen some of these guys at the exhibition game thanks to the road start.

1 – Daniel McCutchen, SP

Three hits and seven strikeouts in five scoreless innings is enough to get Mr. McCutchen the top spot for now.  Probably the top candidate to get called up to Triple-A if a starter is needed.

2 – Colin Curtis, OF

Leads the team in runs with five, and has one of just three home runs that the Thunder have hit in five games.

3 – Matt Carson, OF/DH

Carson has one of the other ones, and is second on the team with a .879 OPS.  Making a strong case to get the call to Scranton if someone is needed.  Leads the team in RBI with five.

4 – Ramiro Pena, SS

Leads the team in OBP with a .467 mark.  He also is tied for the team lead in walks (4) with Austin Jackson.  Needed to get off to a good start to open some eyes, and has.

5 – Jason Jones, SP

No earned runs in his first start of the year, but only one strikeout as well.  Then again, he had no walks.

6 – Cody Ehlers, 1B

Would be a little higher if I weren’t a little skeptical based on last year’s performance.  But he leads the team with a .953 OPS, and is 5-for-15 in his first four games.

7 – Bo Hall, RP

Has only made two appearances so far, but has allowed just one baserunner in two innings of work while striking out four of the seven batters he’s faced.

8 - Chase Wright, SP

It must be frustrating to be back in Double-A again, but neither his words or his pitches have shown it.  Gave the Thunder their longest start of the year so far, and was a mistake away from having a real solid start.

9 – David Robertson, RP

The reliever who’s seen the most work, Robertson leads the bullpen guys with 4.2 innings.  He has yet to allow a run, despite walking two and giving up four hits, and has collected five strikeouts as well.

10 – Marcos Vechionacci, 3B

It’s hard to argue with a .333 batting average, tied for the team lead.  But three errors aren’t helping his case, either.  Leads the team with two doubles, and is tied with a few others for the extra-base hits lead.

11 – Austin Jackson, OF

Not a lot of great things to say just yet.  Tied for the team lead with four walks, but that’s about it.

12 – Steven Jackson, RP

One game, two innings, two hits, two strikeouts, one save.  Not spectacular, but certainly not bad.

13 – Reegie Corona, 2B

Is tied for the team lead in steals with two.  Has played five error-free games so far.

14 – P.J. Pilittere, C

Would have thought he’d have played more than three games at this point.  Hitting .300 in ten at-bats with two RBI.

15 – Michael Gardner, RP

Has one of two Trenton saves.  Two hits and two walks in 2.1 innings, but he’s managed to avoid anything big.

16 – Jose Tabata, OF

Is playing like a 19-year-old kid making the jump to Double-A for the first time.  That’s not a knock, it’s the truth.  Has the lowest average on the team, and is tied for the lead in strikeouts.  Does have two steals, but would have more if he got on base more.  I wonder when this kid will start hitting his stride, because I can’t wait to see him when he’s on.

17 – Josh Schmidt, RP

Looked nasty while wearing Scranton’s uniform during the exhibition game.  Allowed two unearned runs in 2.1 innings so far this year.  One hit, two strikeouts.

18 – Phil Coke, SP

Pitched pretty well in the exhibition game, and even in his Double-A debut, but had more walks than strikeouts and could only go four innings.

19 – George Kontos, SP

Only went three innings in his first start.  Four hits and three walks.  It’s only one so-so outing, though.

20 – Carlos Mendoza, 3B

Played one game.  Got one hit.  Made one error.  Hard to say much else, but it isn’t a good sign that he was the guy who was going to get sent away before Kevin Russo’s health concerns.

21 – Chris Malec, 1B

Got no hits in his only game.  People are expecting some big things out of this guy at some point this year, but he just hasn’t had the opportunity to do it yet.  I fail to see where this kid gets regular at-bats.

22 – Joe Muich, C

Not a real great start to the year for Muich.  Only six at-bats to base his offensive numbers on…but he allowed quite a few steals in his first game of the year.

23 – Zach Kroenke, RP

It’s only one game, but it wasn’t his best.  Two runs on two hits and a walk in one inning.  That will give you a team-high ERA of 18.00

24 – Eric Wordekemper, RP

Is under Kroenke because his numbers are over two games, not one.  Has allowed as many baserunners (5) as the amount of outs he’s nailed down.  WHIP is 3.00

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Action Jackson

April 4, 2008

Briefly caught up with Austin Jackson after the exhibition game on Tuesday.  Here’s what he had to say…

On whether he’s going in with the attitude that he’ll be in Trenton all year…

“Hopefully, if I’m playing well enough, I would like to get called up.  That’s pretty much everybody’s thinking.  But I don’t have a problem with being here.  I like it here.  I like the environment and everything like that, it’s nice.”

His thoughts on the “Outfield of Dreams” with him, Tabata and Curtis…

“We’re definitely a great outfield.  We all have speed, and we know each other’s speed, so there’s not going to be too many balls dropping out there.”

On the exhibition game…

“It was good to get it out of the way, the first game or whatever.  But once you start playing a lot more, you get used to it, and you’ll calm down a little bit more at the plate and things like that.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

All 15 Year Team: Outfield

March 30, 2008

Michael Coleman / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2005)

So far, we’ve taken a look at the Thunder’s All 15 Year Team nominees for catcher, first base, second base, shortstop and third base.

What can I tell you about David McDonough, our featured writer, that I haven’t copied and pasted five times now?

Well, Dave is…ummm…Irish.  So he’s got that going for him.  Outside of that, McDonough’s entering his 15th season of covering Thunder baseball.  One of the most helpful people on press row, Dave’s been up close and personal with just about every single player on the entire ballot, and provides unique and interesting stories that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

The following is Dave’s breakdown, mine will follow after all of his are done…

Andy Abad: When your manager says to the organization, “Get him out of my sight,” it’s probably not a good sign. To Andy Abad’s credit, he overcame that stigma to become, if not a big league star, a least a valued minor leaguer.

Andy was a not particularly successful first baseman/outfielder in his third pro season, batting .240 for the Thunder, when he got into a bar brawl in Trenton one night in 1995. He denied everything, and then admitted to manager Ken Macha the truth of the matter. Macha was disgusted with his 22-year-old outfielder, primarily for lying, and banished him to Single-A Sarasota in the Florida State League, from where so few return.

But Abad did come back, half-way through the 1996 season. He was more thoughtful, more serious and incidentally, a better hitter, batting .277 in 213 at bats. He never shook the journeyman status, though. He batted .303 in 45 games in 1997 for Trenton, and went on up to Triple-A, where he showed some power. He’s bounced around Triple-A ever since, with time out for a year in Japan, and has gotten 198 big league at bats with Oakland and the Red Sox. He spent 2007 with the Brewers Triple-A club, batting .316 in 83 games, and is known as a model citizen.

Raul Gonzalez: So many of the players on the Thunder list were veteran minor leaguers having good seasons in their third or fourth go round of AA ball. Gonzalez was one of the best. At age 25, in his third full year of AA, he knocked 103 runs, still a club record, with the 1999 Thunder. He batted .335, second best in club history, and had 33 doubles. He was a AA All-Star and he was also a very good mentor to the younger players, too.

It was his only year in the Red Sox organization. He played through 2006, hit well in Triple-A, and got a fair amount of time in the big leagues with the Mets in 2003, as well as odds and ends with the Cubs, Reds and Indians. He finished up in Indy ball in 2006.

Melky Cabrera: Melky won’t turn 24 until late in 2008, and he still may turn out to be one of the best players to come out of Trenton. He was only 20 when he played center field in for the Thunder in 2005, and hit well enough for May and June to go up to AAA Columbus, and then on to New York on July 7.

He flopped badly in six games, and thank goodness that George Steinbrenner was making fewer and fewer decisions for the Yankees, or we probably never would have heard of Melky again. Instead, cooler heads like Brian Cashman’s prevailed, and Melky was sent back to Trenton – where he was still one of the younger players in the league. Finishing the year with a Trenton August, he righted himself, and was in New York again for the 2006 season. He had a good year for a 23-year-old in 2007, batting .273 in 150 games for the Yankees, and with Johnny Damon no longer able to play center field, Melky’s future should keep getting better and better.

Michael Coleman: If only Michael Coleman had been as good as Michael Coleman thought he was. Actually, he was pretty damn close. He was highly recruited as a high school football player (Alabama offered him a scholarship), but chose baseball when the Red Sox came calling. He was only 21 when he played an excellent center field for Trenton in 1997, and he batted .301 with 14 homers, 58 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 102 games. Baseball America voted him “Best Defensive Outfielder” in the Eastern League. He batted .367 with five homers and 21 RBIs in July, and the Sox promoted him to Triple-A Pawtucket.

He hit well in 28 games for Pawtucket, too, and earned a trip to Boston in September. But Coleman had had an attitude problem since Day One. He had never been shy about revealing when he thought he wasn’t being moved up fast enough – which was almost always. When he arrived in Boston with his self-appointed nickname, “Prime Time”, demanding to pick his own uniform number, he rubbed a lot of the veterans, including Mo Vaughn, the wrong way. “Who named him that?” demanded Vaughn. “…to get a nickname, you’ve got to put some time in.” It didn’t help that Coleman struck out 11 times in 24 at bats.

That was about it for Coleman. He spent all of 1998 in Triple-A and even his 30 homers at Pawtucket in 1999 rated only a 2 game stint in Boston. He got shipped off to the Reds with another Red Sox disappointment – Donnie Sadler – in the winter of 2000, and in the spring of 2001, the Yankees picked up him, along with another famous flop, Drew Henson. The 12 games that he got into with the 2001 Yankees was his last glimpse of the big leagues. He drifted off into Indy ball, although curiously enough, all three of the organizations he played with in organized ball – Boston, Cincinnati and the Yankees – re-signed him at one point or another. In 2005, the Yankees, having signed him out of the indy Atlantic League, sent him to Trenton, eight years after the debut in this town that had seemed so promising. The 29-year-old went through the motions for 42 games without much fanfare. 2006 was the last time he played pro ball. But he was awfully good that first time around in Trenton.

Brett Gardner: He’s fast and he can hit okay. He plays with great intensity. He’s the highest drafted player ever out of the College of Charleston. Baseball America lists him as the #8 prospect in the Yankees system.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Brett will be a big-leaguer, but I am not yet convinced that he’ll be an everyday player. He didn’t hit Eastern League pitching all that well his first time through (a .272 average in 217 at bats in 2006) and his vaunted base running wasn’t always wisely chosen – although he did steal 28 bases, and 18 more when he came back last year and hit .300 at Trenton in 203 at bats. He missed a month with a broken hand last season, but finished up well with Triple-A Scranton and then batted .343 in the AFL. He hasn’t got a great arm but covers plenty of ground in center field. If fellow centerfielder Austin Jackson has a good season in Trenton this year, and Melky Cabrera continues to develop, Gardner could be traded. And if hard work is the key, he will definitely be in the big leagues soon.

Adam Hyzdu: Adam signed with the Red Sox on April 26, 1996. He reported to Trenton half-way through the next night’s game, persuaded the crack Thunder security staff to let him in, introduced himself to manager Ken Macha, was inserted into the game as pinch-hitter, and promptly hit a home run. It was that kind of a season for the ex-first round draft choice of the Giants. In what is probably the best all-round year a Thunder player has ever had, Hyzdu batted a club record .337 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs in 374 at bats. He was also a pretty good left fielder, and made the All-Star team. Not bad for a 24-year-old who had been released by the Reds organization that March.

Adam hit well in Triple-A the next year, but the Red Sox saw no place for him. He was in the DBacks system for a year, and played in the Eastern League again in 2000, when the Pirates signed him as a free agent. He tore things apart, leading the league in homers and RBIs. He got some at bats in the majors with the Pirates every year from 2000 through 2003, and the Red Sox even re-signed him and gave him 10 at bats in 2004 and 16 in 2005. He sipped the coffee twice more, with the Padres and Rangers, and spent 2007 in Japan. He hit 280 minor league home runs, and in parts of seven big league seasons, he had a total of 358 career major league at bats. A lot of guys would love to be able to say that.

Trot Nixon: Was anyone ever tougher on himself than Trot Nixon? He felt the burden of being the Red Sox number one draft choice very keenly. Here was a guy who, if he went 2 for 4 would spend hours worrying about the two hits he didn’t get. Add to that the fact that he was already experiencing the back problems that would shorten his career in Boston, and you have one worried warrior.

Fortunately, everyone in the Red Sox organization knew what Trot was going through, and he had a lot of support from manager and coaches. At age 22, he played 123 games in 1996 with Trenton, batted .251 with 11 homers, played an excellent right field, and started, very gradually, to let up on himself. It took a couple of decent years in Triple-A for him to get his game together, but he ended up as a fan favorite at Fenway for his determined style of play and his slugging against right-handers. The injuries have caught up with Trot, who played for Cleveland in 2007. As of this writing, he has signed a minor league contract with the DBacks. Red Sox fans will always remember him as a part of the 2004 championship team.

Dernell Stenson: Part of the tragedy of Stenson’s violent death in 2003 was that the Cincinnati Reds really felt he was at last coming into his own as a ballplayer. Dernell was the original tools guy – a very raw young hard hitter when he was drafted by the Red Sox in the third round in 1996. He was in Trenton by the start of the 1998 season, and was called the Best Hitting Prospect in the league by Baseball America. The 20-year-old hit 24 homers in 138 games for the Thunder and scored 90 runs.

He also struck out 135 times, and, just three years removed from being a high school pitcher, had a lot of trouble playing the outfield. That seemed to prey on Stenson – throughout his time in the Red Sox system, his struggles with the outfield, and later first base, seemed to affect his overall game. Each year, he’d hit some homers, but never seemed to put together that one season the Red Sox were looking for. Baseball America called him the Sox’ top prospect in 99 and 2001, but that’s what he stayed – a prospect. He also ran into some off-the-field personal problems.

After he had spent 3 ½ years at Triple-A Pawtucket, the Reds claimed Stenson on waivers. They let him play at Double-A again, and felt he had gained enough confidence to bring him up to the big leagues for 37 games at the end of 2003. They spoke of having him in their plans for the 2004 season. But on November 5, 2003, in Chandler, Arizona, while Dernell was playing fall baseball, he was robbed and murdered. He was the first ex-Thunder player to lose his life. At 25, he should have had years of living and baseball ahead of him.

Kevin Thompson: The fleet outfielder can run like the wind, but has never hit consistently. He stole 47 bases in 86 games for the 2003 Thunder, and was caught only eight times, but he only batted .226 in 328 at bats. He did better in 04 and 05 (.329 in 81 games for the Thunder) but there are other more talented players ahead of him in the system. He got a few games in with the Yankees in 06 and 07 before the A’s picked him up during last season.

Not On the Ballot: Justin Christian: Signed as an undrafted free agent out of indy ball, Justin stole a club record 68 bases for the Thunder in 2006, and has 28 multiple hit games. He wasn’t hitting well in Trenton in 07 (.235 in 65 games) when he was promoted to Scranton in July, where he took off, bating .325 in 40 games. A clubhouse leader, he could help someone off the bench. It’ll have to be soon, though – he turns 28 in April.

Dave’s Votes Go To: Gonzalez, Hyzdu, Coleman

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: This is where it starts to get really, really difficult.  There are just so many options when it comes down to the outfield, starting pitching and bullpen.  As far as the outfielders go, eight of the nine guys on there made it to the big leagues after they played in Trenton.  The ninth, Brett Gardner, was in serious contention to make the Yankees this season and will almost undoubtedly be in the Bronx at some point in 2008.

Andy Abad: The way he pissed everyone off after his little bar incident is a somewhat legendary tale over at Waterfront Park.  Fausto Andres Abad — the kids call him Andy – has pretty much played everywhere you can imagine, including a stint in Japan in 2000.

He’s put on 16 different uniforms in his career, but only three of those have been in the big leagues.  With a whopping 5,381 minor league at-bats to his name, he has just 21 in the show.  He got one of them with Oakland in 2001, 17 more in Boston two years later, and got his final three with the Reds just two seasons ago.

Now 35 years old, Abad’s status for 2008 seems uncertain.

Raul Gonzalez: Gonzalez is one of the best outfielders I’ve seen at the minor league level.  I never really understood why he didn’t get more of a look than he did in the bigs. 

Sure, he was older when he finally started hitting his peak — it was his fifth year in Double-A, his third full season…but the season he put together during that magical 1999 season was the best of his career.  But he was just 25…was he really too old at 25?  .335, 18 home runs and 103 RBI should be the only numbers that matter.

It was also the only season he was a member of the Red Sox organization, and perhaps that worked out to his favor.  The following year, he signed with the Cubs and started the season in Triple-A before making his big league debut later that year.

He’d go on to play for the Reds, Mets and Indians at the highest level, but he never was able to stick or become an everyday player.

In 2005 and 2006, Gonzalez spent both seasons in Triple-A with the Cardinals and Pirates, respectively, without getting a look in the bigs.

At 34 years old, the undersized (5′ 9″) outfielder appears to be done.  At best, he was an example of the Red Sox classic mismanagement during the Dan Duquette era.  At worst, he was someone who had mastered Double-A and was left there for far too long.

Melky Cabrera: Cabrera was in Bill Masse’s lineup every day for the Thunder in 2005, outside of brief stints with Triple-A Columbus and the Yankees.

One of the better defenders the Thunder have seen in the outfield, Cabrera also put together a solid offensive year as well, hitting .275 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI.

Even being on the Yankees, it seems everything Cabrera has done has been under the radar…few probably realize that he drove in 73 runs last season in the Bronx.

Seems he’s always dangled as trade bait, too.  Yankee fans had better hope that stops, because Cabrera seems to be a pretty key part of the team’s future for many years to come.

Michael Coleman: Every time I talked to Michael Coleman, he scared the crap out of me.  And were it not for being drafted by the Red Sox, he would have went on to have people checking their pants as a football player at Alabama.  Instead: “I never made it to Alabama, I got drafted and never looked back,” he told me back in 2004.

He’s just an intimidating guy.  But he was intimidating at the plate too, and put together a monster year in Mercer County in 1997.

“I had a good year with the Thunder, I had a great time there,” Coleman said.

“I was there for the majority of the year, Dave Gallagher was our hitting coach and DeMarlo Hale was our manager. They established several guys in the big leagues and some of those guys are still in the big leagues. But I had a fun year that year.”

Coleman came back to Trenton in 2005, and left Thunder fans with one last memory — hitting a walk-off home run off of Portland’s Jim Mann in Game Four of the Eastern League Division Series to send the series to a fifth game.

Brett Gardner: The boy can run, that’s for damn sure.  Gardner swiped 46 bags in 109 games with the Thunder in 2006 and 2007, coming close to setting foot (get it…setting foot…stolen bases…I’ll stop) in Justin Christian and Kevin Thompson territory.

It’s hard to believe that the 24-year-old is entering just his fourth season of pro ball.  In contention for a spot on the Yankees roster this season, it’s harder yet to believe that Gardner won’t see some time in the Bronx at some point this season…and if not this summer, certainly in September.

If he can get some more pop into his bat, he won’t fall into the Kevin Thompson trap of being known as a guy who’s all speed and no bat.

Adam Hyzdu: Seems like any time you read one of those stories about guys with oodles and oodles (technical term) of minor league at-bats who could never really get an extended look in the big leagues, Adam Hyzdu’s name was in it.

After breaking none other than Ken Griffey, Jr’s record for home runs in a season at his Ohio high school, Hyzdu was picked in the first round by the San Francisco Giants in 1990, and never played a day in the big leagues for them.  Instead, he bounced around a few organizations and eventually got to the bigs with the Pirates.

But inbetween being drafted and his big league debut, Hyzdu wore a Thunder uniform in 1996, hitting .337 with 25 home runs and 80 RBI while doing so.  An Eastern League All-Star, Hyzdu put up similar numbers the following season for Pawtucket — but in a stunning development considering how well the Red Sox handled their prospects during this time period — never reached the bigs during his first stint in the organization.

He did return to the Sox in 2004, and even got into a playoff game for them in 2005.  A veteran of a mindboggling 1,750 minor league games, Hyzdu has just 358 MLB at-bats to his credit.
  
36 years old, Hyzdu is a free agent and is probably done after playing one final season in Japan.

Trot Nixon: Sure, Trot Nixon played for the Thunder in 1995.  You know this by now.

But for as long as he lives, Christopher Trotman Nixon will always be asked about what it was like to bring Red Sox Nation their first World Series in 86 years.

“I got the opportunity to live out one of my dreams, and also fulfill the fans dreams to win a championship in the Boston area,” Nixon told me last year.

“I’d heard all the things about the curses and this and that, so to be able to be on a team that was able to come back the way we did in the ALCS against the Yankees and then go into the World Series and take four games in a sweep of St. Louis, it was something special. I was glad I was able to be there when the curse was broken.”

Even after years of dealing with the scrutiny of playing in Boston, Nixon insists that his first season with the Indians hadn’t changed anything.

“Baseball is baseball,” he said.

“We’re having a good year this season, and the fact that I’m not in a Red Sox uniform any more, it doesn’t bother me. I’m just glad to have the opportunity to play.”

Now 11 seasons and one World Series ring removed from wearing a Thunder uniform, one thing’s for sure. Trot Nixon will never forget the Trenton faithful.

“In some minor league parks, you don’t get that much support,” Nixon said.

“But we got a tremendous amount of support in Trenton.”

After a lackluster season in Cleveland, and equally iffy spring training this year, Nixon has been sent to the minors by the Arizona Diamondbacks to start the season after trying to learn first base to help his chances of making the team.

Dernell Stenson: What a shame.  I thought about just leaving it at that, because it really would sum things up, wouldn’t it? 

Who knows what would have become of Stenson had he not been tragically murdered a few years ago?  Once thought to be Mo Vaughn’s replacement over on Yawkey Way, Stenson was picked in the third round by the Red Sox in 1996.

With the Thunder in 1998, he hit .257 with 24 home runs and 71 RBI — the 24 dingers would be his career high.

At least he finally got to reach the big leagues in 2003 with the Reds, hitting .247 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 37 games.  It looked like he had a future with the Reds…a future that was ridiculously taken away from him by a few you-know-what’s who wanted his truck.

What a shame.

Kevin Thompson: Thompson and Justin Christian would probably be interchangable on this list were it not for Thompson reaching the big leagues with the Yankees.

Thompson was claimed on waivers by Oakland last September and didn’t really do too much to stand out there, instead signing with the Pirates this off-season.  He’ll start the year in Triple-A.

In 2003, Thompson set the Thunder’s single season record for stolen bases in a season with 47.  Over the next two seasons, he’d add 54 more for a total of 101 steals in a Trenton uniform.

Not On The Ballot: Justin Christian: If you didn’t have the list of guys who are on the ballot in front of you, you might be willing to make a stink about JC not being on it.  To be honest, Christian’s future with the Yankees seems pretty bleak with the emergence of Gardner.  At one point, they seemed to be pretty even, but Gardner has clearly passed Christian and established himself as the Yankees first option for an outfield call-up.

Regardless, Christian’s story is one of the more intriguing ones you’ll find in minor league baseball. Undrafted after spending time at three different colleges, he signed with the River City Rascals of the Frontier League and played there for parts of 2003 and 2004 before signing with the Yankees after hitting .450 in 120 at-bats for the Rascals.

“(River City) gave me an opportunity to play out of college,” Christian said in 2006.

“I knew when I was in indy ball that I’d have to put up extremely good numbers to get an opportunity, so it was exciting to get the chance to go to the Yankees.”

My Votes Go To: Raul Gonzalez, Adam Hyzdu, Dernell Stenson.  I was very, very close to having Justin Christian in one of these spots.  Real close.

Our ballots so far:

C: Walt McKeel (McDonough), Virgil Chevalier (Ashmore)
1B: Tony Clark (McDonough), Shelley Duncan (Ashmore)
2B: David Eckstein (McDonough), David Eckstein (Ashmore)
SS: Freddy Sanchez (McDonough), Adam Everett (Ashmore)
3B: Shea Hillenbrand (McDonough), Wilton Veras (Ashmore)
OF1: Raul Gonzalez (McDonough), Raul Gonzalez (Ashmore)
OF2: Adam Hyzdu (McDonough), Adam Hyzdu (Ashmore)
OF3: Michael Coleman (McDonough), Dernell Stenson (Ashmore)

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Yankees Send Five Thunder Alums Down

March 11, 2008

Per Peter Abraham’s blog, the Yankees have assigned Juan Miranda to Triple-A Scranton, and reassigned Austin Jackson, Colin Curtis, Jose Tabata and P.J. Pilittere to minor league camp.

Chad Jennings reports that Pilittere might start the year in Trenton, now that the Yankees have signed Chad Moeller for organizational depth.  This was something I wrote about when it came out that Cervelli had broken his wrist…as I said then, Pilittere had a nice year, but I don’t think a Triple-A spot should have been set in stone for him.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder alums win Kevin Lawn Awards

March 8, 2008

This release straight from the Yankees…

YANKEES NAME OUTFIELDER AUSTIN JACKSON AND RHP IAN KENNEDY WINNERS OF THE 2007 KEVIN LAWN “PLAYER OF THE YEAR” AND PITCHER OF THE YEAR” AWARDS

The New York Yankees announced today that outfielder Austin Jackson and right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy were named winners of the Yankees’ 2007 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ minor league “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year.” The two players will receive their awards prior to the Yankees game on Saturday, March 8 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.

The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn, the son of long-time Yankees Vice President and Chief of Operations Jack Lawn, who passed away in 1999. A complete list of past award winners can be found on page 170 of the Yankees’ 2008 Media Guide.

Jackson, 21, combined to bat .304 (151-for-496) with 88R, 21 doubles, 7 triples, 13HR, 59RBI and 33 stolen bases in 128 games at Single-A Charleston, Single-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2007. In January, Baseball America ranked the outfielder the No. 2 prospect–and top position player–in the Yankees organization. He was tied for fourth overall in the organization in stolen bases and led Tampa with 10HR. Jackson also appeared in the playoffs with the Eastern League-champion Trenton Thunder, going 7-for-35 (.200) with one double and 4RBI in eight games. Following the season, he participated in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League, batting .271 (36-for-133) with 25R and 22RBI in 39 games with the Honolulu Sharks. Jackson reached base safely in 33 games, including a league-high 24 consecutive contests from 10/6-11/9. He tied for the league lead in runs and triples (5), ranked second in extra-base hits (18), tied for third in doubles (10) and stolen bases (8), and ranked fourth in RBI. He was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

Kennedy, 23, saw action at four different levels in 2007 in his first full professional season. In 26 combined games (25 starts) with Single-A Tampa, Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he went 12-3 with a 1.91 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 146.2IP, ranking second among Yankees minor leaguers in both ERA and strikeouts. He also held opponents to a .182 batting average, the second-lowest mark among full-season minor leaguers. He was named to Baseball America’s 2007 All-Minor League All-Star team and was tabbed by the publication as the organization’s fourth-best prospect entering the 2008 season. Following a call-up on 9/1, Kennedy went 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts with the Yankees in his Major League debut. Overall, in 29 combined starts in 2007 (minors and Majors), Kennedy held opponents to 3ER or less in all but one start. He was selected by the Yankees in the first round (21st overall) of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Each player will be presented with a trophy designed by C & C Awards as well as a Burberry watch, courtesy of William Barthman Jewelers.

Looking Back: The 2007 Top 30…

January 31, 2008

OK, so we’re obviously not looking that far back here.  Today, I’ll be taking a look back at Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects from the 2007 season.  Apparently, it wasn’t a bad year to be in the Yankees farm system, as this seemed to be the first season where…gasp, they actually gave their minor leaguers a legitimate opportunity.  In fact, six of the 30 players on this list made their big league debuts with the Yankees last year.

Make sure you also check out my looks back from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 lists.

1. Phil Hughes, P

Anyone wondering how highly regarded Hughes was before the start of the 2007 season needed to only look at the cover of the Prospect Handbook.  Hughes’ picture, taken by Thunder team photographer Dave Schofield, graced the front of the annual publication.

Hughes made his highly anticipated MLB debut about a month into the season, and had a no-hitter going deep into his second game before injuring his hamstring.  That and a subsequent ankle injury derailed his season for a few months, but after a few rehab appearances back in Waterfront Park, Hughes was good as new and ready to show the world what he can do for 2008.

And, on a side note, he really is as good of a guy as he seems.  Always incredibly giving of his time, not only during the 2006 season with Trenton, but also in the Yankees clubhouse as well. 

2. Jose Tabata, OF

Tabata did very little to hurt himself last season, spending all of last year in the Florida State League with Tampa.  He hit .307 with 5 home runs and 54 RBI, and helped lead the team to an impressive 83-56 record.

However, he still hasn’t developed a lot of power, and only had 23 extra-base hits last season.  One of the more intriguing stories of 2008 might just be Tabata’s adjustment to Eastern League pitching, and if he can increase both his home run and walk totals.

3. Humberto Sanchez, P

With the Yankees being shut out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes, some people might forget that they were victorious in the “getting rid of their aging outfielder for prospects” contest last season.  Sanchez was the key player in the Gary Sheffield deal that sent him to the Yankees along with Kevin Whelan and the essentially forgotten Anthony Claggett.

The problem with all that is that Sanchez hasn’t thrown a single pitch for the Yankees on any level, out for all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  During the parts of three seasons he spent on the hill for the Erie Seawolves, he’s never faced the Trenton Thunder.  However, it’s very possible that his rehab tour will take him to Waterfront Park at some point in 2008.

4. Dellin Betances, P

Betances is listed anywhere between 6′ 7″ and 6′ 9″, but the more important numbers would involve how many starts he’s made over the past two seasons: 13.

The lanky New York native made just six appearances last season for Staten Island, battling a forearm injury that shelved him for the majority of the year.  He’s been impressive when he’s been out there, but he needs to be healthy for all of 2008 to shake any sort of “injury prone” label.

5. Joba Chamberlain, P

What else is there to say about Joba Chamberlain?  He sailed through three levels of the minors, Trenton included, to make a huge impact on the Yankees out of the bullpen following his early August call-up.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t even hear himself get drafted.

“I stopped watching the draft in the middle of the first round,” Chamberlain told me in June.

“I started playing with my son upstairs, but then I got a bunch of calls from my teammates and friends saying that I’d been picked at 41 by the Yankees. It couldn’t have happened with a better organization, so I was pretty lucky to get picked there.”

The same enthusiasm that endeared him to fans in the Bronx was also very evident even in Trenton.

“I’m going to give you 110 percent every time I go out there,” he said.

“I’m going to be excited out there, I’m going to show emotion out there. I want to keep my teammates involved and keep everyone in the game.”

I wrote a column about a week before his big league call-up saying how the Yankees were rushing him, and how people were expecting too much out of him and so on. I obviously now look like an idiot.

6. Ian Kennedy, P

Ian Kennedy / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Kennedy was another pitcher who sailed through the various levels of the minors relatively quickly.  He made the same three stops Chamberlain did — Tampa, Trenton and Scranton — but he stayed in each a little longer.

He goes after hitters with a repertoire that includes a fastball that sat at 88 MPH in his Thunder debut, a sinking changeup, a slider and a curveball.

“I command my pitches a lot like (Tyler) Clippard does, that’s who a lot of people compare me to,” Kennedy told me in June.

But Kennedy rocketed past Clippard in the system, to the point where Clippard was sent down to Trenton to make room for Kennedy, who was on his way up to Scranton.

7. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard told me in September that he felt like his 2007 season was a mixed bag, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.  Sure, he made his Major League debut and ended up going 3-1 in six starts for the Yankees, but he also went all the way back down to Trenton and didn’t really pitch all that well in the process.

Following the season, he was shipped to the Nationals for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, and many people think he could figure prominently in the mix for a spot in Washington’s starting rotation.

8. J. Brent Cox, P

Like Humberto Sanchez, Cox has not pitched since late in the 2006 season.  But what might be more frustrating than anything else for the Yankees is that the former Texas Longhorn actually injured himself pitching for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which they perhaps foolishly allowed him to pitch in during the Thunder’s 2006 playoff push.

What’s worse is that Cox was well on his way to becoming a prime candidate for the Yankees bullpen at some point in 2007, but instead finds himself thrown into a category with other rehabbing Bronx prospects.

9. Kevin Whelan, P

Kevin Whelan / Photo by Mike Ashmore

At the start of the season, Whelan was the highest ranked Yankees prospect in Trenton.  Accordingly, I made him the subject of one of my first features.  I’d post the audio if it weren’t for the numerous f-bombs I dropped in it, but Whelan very narrowly avoided injury during our first chat in the home dugout, thanks to a stray BP ball that rocketed off the dugout wall between both of our heads.

That was an odd situation, and it was an odd year for Whelan.  The numbers look good, but his walk totals were a bit of a concern, and he was inexplicably sent down to Tampa to start in the middle of the year before being sent back up as a reliever.

10. Brett Gardner, OF

Gardner spent the first half of 2007 in Trenton, hitting .300 in 54 games with the Thunder.  However, the power that everyone hoped he’d develop didn’t appear, and he didn’t hit a single home run and drove in just 17 runs.  Since his five home runs with Staten Island in 2005, he’s hit just one since.

11. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B

Vechionacci was called up to Trenton just in time for the postseason, and he hit .242 with two RBI in eight postseason contests.  He spent the majority of the season in Tampa, however, where he hit .266 with two home runs and 39 RBI.

12. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez did a lot to improve his status in the Yankees organization in 2007, posting a league leading 15 wins while with the Trenton Thunder.  It looks like he’ll be joining the Scranton rotation for 2008, and could be a candidate to make the jump to the Bronx at some point in the year.

13. Eric Duncan, 1B/3B

Duncan hasn’t excelled as people hoped he might, struggling for a good part of last season with the Triple-A Scranton Yankees.  He hit .241 with 11 home runs 61 RBI in 111 games, although he did continue his trend of keeping his strikeout totals much lower than the career high of 136 he set while with the Thunder in 2005.

14. Chris Garcia, P

Garcia did not pitch in 2007 due to an injury suffered while in the Hawaii Winter League.  Once compared to Phil Hughes, Garcia now needs a big 2008 to even be in the same conversation with some of the less prominent pitchers in this list.

15. Mark Melancon, P

Melancon also blew out his elbow in Hawaii, and didn’t pitch either in 2007.  So let me get this straight…Sanchez, Cox, Garcia and Melancon all didn’t pitch last season, and Betances only lasted for six games?  Yikes.

16. Alan Horne, P

Horne was probably the most consistent Thunder pitcher last season, dominating Eastern League batters to the tune of a 12-4 record, 3.11 ERA and league leading 165 strikeouts.  However, there are widespread concerns and rumblings about his control, and he still has to prove himself to some of those people while in Scranton this year.

17. Angel Reyes, P

44 walks compared to 49 strikeouts last year?  Uh-oh.  Reyes appeared in 16 games at three different stops last season, and the 20-year-old southpaw wasn’t particularly impressive at any of them. 

18. Austin Jackson, OF

The numbers — .200, 0 HR, 4 RBI — don’t necessarily tell the true impact that Austin Jackson had on the Trenton Thunder’s postseason run.  He made several impressive and clutch throws that showed why this guy is considered to be one of the best, if not the best athlete in the entire system.

19. Chase Wright, P

Outside of the getting traded part, you could pretty much write the same paragraph about Chase Wright as the one above about Tyler Clippard.  Wright received national attention in his second big league start after getting rocked by the Red Sox for four consecutive home runs.  But that was after he made an impressive jump to the Yankees right from Trenton, a place he would unfortunately be sent back down to after the Yankees needed to make room for Kennedy and Chamberlain in Scranton.

20. George Kontos, P

Kontos has been picking up a lot of steam as someone to keep an eye on in the Yankees farm system as of late, and may be one of the more polarizing pitchers in the organization.  With Tampa in 2007, he went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA.  His 15 home runs allowed were the fourth highest in the FSL last year as well.

21. Jesus Montero, C

After an overall lack of catching depth in the system for the past few years, it seems the Yankees have made great strides in that department with both Francisco Cervelli and Montero.  Just 18 years old, he made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, hitting .280 with three home runs and 19 RBI.

22. Steven White, P

In a year where it seemed like everyone was getting a shot in the Yankees starting rotation, Steven White’s 6-4 record and 3.34 ERA apparently weren’t good enough.  He doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but he deserved a shot in the show just as much as nearly anyone else who got one last year did.

23. T.J. Beam, P

After struggling in an extended look in the big leagues in 2006, Beam spent all of 2007 in Triple-A Scranton.  He did all right, but also did little to distinguish himself from the other relievers in the system.  He’s since signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

24. Zach McAllister, P

Zach McAllister / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007) / Taken in Brooklyn, NY

McAllister went 4-6 with a 5.17 ERA in 16 appearances for Staten Island of the New York-Penn League last season.  I was fortunate enough to see one of his starts in Brooklyn, and it seemed to be a microcosm of his season.  The numbers were pretty good, and I thought he showed some flashes of what he could do, but it was a pretty inconsistent start.

25. Colin Curtis, OF

If I were to entirely base my assessment of Curtis on games I saw him play last year, it might not be so great.  After all, he was 9-for-58 in games I covered.  But his overall numbers were solid, and I saw enough to where I’ll give him a pass.  I think that with a full year in Trenton and some experience against Double-A pitching, he could be somewhat of a sleeper this year.

26. Jeff Karstens, P

Karstens has become somewhat of an afterthought in the system.  He ended up in the Yankees rotation early last season, but broke his leg and never really factored in the discussion after that.

27. Josue Calzado, OF

Calzado hit .271 with nine home runs and 55 RBI at Single-A Charleston last year, showing his first real consistent burst of power.

28. Bronson Sardinha, OF

Seriously, Sardinha must have set some sort of record for most years spent in the Prospect Handbook with the same organization.

29. Tim Norton, P

Norton came out of nowhere to light up the NYPL with Staten Island in 2006, but lasted all of five starts with Charleston in 2007 before going down with a shoulder injury.  Any pitcher in this system simply cannot afford an injury, but a guy who turns 25 in May that the team has very little money in has even less margin for error.

30. Daniel McCutchen, P

Daniel McCutchen / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Do you remember when the only time people talked about Tyler Clippard, it was to discuss him being kicked off his high school team for a drinking and driving incident?  Well, there was also a time when McCutchen was known as the guy who tested positive for ephedra in 2006.

His 2007 season went a long way towards him removing that label, and the Yankees agreed, going as far as to include him as a part of their developmental program at Yankee Stadium. 

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Looking Back: The 2006 Top 30…

January 27, 2008

With Baseball America’s 2008 Prospect Handbook starting to arrive in mailboxes, it’s time to continue our series of looking back at the Yankees top prospects from years past and go back just two years ago.

This is a look at the publication’s 30 best Yankees prospects from 2006…

1. Phil Hughes, P

With Hughes, the Yankees finally had a prospect who lived up to the hype.  But he did a lot more than that, he actually managed to exceed the expectations that were had of him going into the 2006 season.  Hughes was just 19 when he arrived at Waterfront Park, and quickly became one of the most talked about prospects in the entire country.  The first time we spoke, which was a day before his Double-A debut, he had yet to even visit Yankee Stadium, no less pitch there.

It’s amazing just how quickly this kid shot through the system…

2. Eric Duncan, 3B/1B

Eric Duncan / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

After leading the Eastern League in home runs with 34, Shelley Duncan was nowhere to be found on this list in 2006.  Meanwhile, Eric found himself as the second best prospect.  I’m not at all insinuating Shelley should have ever been rated higher than Eric…but it was always interesting to me to see how these guys paths crossed.

3. Jose Tabata, OF

Tabata looks to make his Double-A debut this season, very likely breaking camp with the team in April.  The guy is a career .305 hitter over three seasons of work, so there’s a lot of excitement in Trenton about the possibility of seeing this kid — and he is just as a kid at 19 – in a Thunder uniform.

4. C.J. Henry, SS

One of the centerpieces of the Bobby Abreu trade, Henry hit an astonishing .184 in 102 games with Single-A Lakewood and has since made his way back to the Yankees organization.  Once the fourth best prospect, he’s now completely and entirely off the radar.

5. Austin Jackson, OF

He was drafted out of high school in 2005, and quickly established himself as one of the better prospects in the Yankees organization.  After last year’s impressive performance over multiple levels, he now appears to be one of the elite prospects in the farm system.

6. Eduardo Nunez, SS

Nunez made 40 errors in 2006 and 33 last season.  He’s a career .245 hitter with below average power and decent, but certainly not blazing speed.  At just 20 years old, he still has time to develop and improve.

7. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B/SS

Vechionacci was once one of the more exciting prospects in the entire organization, but has stock has fallen dramatically.  This season could be make or break for him, and it looks like it’ll happen at Waterfront Park.

8. Christian Garcia, P

Garcia pitched just 12 games in 2006, and was shut down entirely in 2007.  With his injuries and the glut of quality starters in the organization, he’s become an afterthought.

9. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez spent all of 2006 in Tampa, and posted another solid, but somewhat unspectacular season.  He went 7-5 with a 3.61 ERA, striking out 82 and walking just 29 over 92.1 innings of work.  After a season in Trenton, Marquez will now be competing for a spot in a very crowded Triple-A rotation.

10. Tyler Clippard, P

I should ask Clip to sponsor this blog for as much as his name comes up in it.  2006 was such a mixed bag for him, but his year end numbers don’t really indicate that.  His ERA was as high as 5.69 in mid-June, and it looked like he could potentially be a candidate to get sent back down to Tampa.  Instead, he put together a remarkable second half that saw him win 10 of his last 11 decisions and lower his ERA by more than two runs.

11. J. Brent Cox, P

Cox hasn’t pitched in a game since being allowed to leave to pitch for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament towards the end of 2006.  Some writers were talking about Cox being a potential replacement for Mariano Rivera at the time.  I asked him about this in August of 2006…

“At this point, it’s too early,” Cox said. “(The Yankees) haven’t really talked about my plans for me, but I trust them with what they want to do with me, and I’ll just go along with it.”

12. Tim Battle, OF

His last name is an appropriate one, because it’s been just that — a battle — for him to maintain his status as a prospect in the Yankees organization.  It will be very interesting to see where he ends up come Opening Day, as some people are projecting him to crack Trenton’s roster.

13. Brett Gardner, OF

Gardner made his Thunder debut in 2006, joining the team in the middle of June after hitting .323 and stealing 30 bases in the Florida State League.  He swiped 28 more bags for Trenton, setting a new career high with 58 in a season.

14. Steven White, P

White started the 2006 season in Trenton and did a lot to re-establish himself as one of the better arms in system, posting a 4-1 record with 2.11 ERA in 11 starts before being called up to Triple-A Columbus for good in June.

15. Melky Cabrera, OF

The Melkman shed his prospect tag in 2006, but in the best way possible.  After hitting a torrid .385 in Columbus, the Yankees almost had no choice but to call him up.  He’s stuck in the big leagues ever since.

16. Matt DeSalvo, P

Matt DeSalvo / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

I absolutely, positively wrote off Matt DeSalvo after his 2006 season.  I don’t think the numbers (5-4, 5.77) for Trenton really tell the tale of how disappointing and inconsistent he was. 

“Matt DeSalvo’s had a bad year,” Yankees Special Advisor Reggie Jackson told me during his annual visit.

“He’s had some off the field issues that we believe he’s got straightened out. Every year isn’t a great year, but the organization still loves him and is behind him.”

And while that wasn’t entirely true, as DeSalvo was taken off the 40-man roster, he did rebound in 2007 and make his Major League debut.

17. Alan Horne, P

Horne was still an enigma at this point, having yet to throw a pitch in professional baseball.  Now, he’s considered to have a great chance at cracking the Yankees roster at some point in 2008.

18. Sean Henn, P

Henn might be better suited to be pitch in an organization that will allow him to start, because the Yankees attempt to convert him to a reliever certainly hasn’t panned out.

19. Kevin Howard, 2B/3B

I never understood the fascination with this guy.  Maybe it was that he went to Miami, I don’t know.  He bounced around the Dodgers and Phillies organizations last year, and put up some better numbers in Double-A Jacksonville after going back to his natural position of second base. 

20. Matt Smith, P

Smith had a real solid 2006 season while under the Yankees umbrella, allowing just six earned runs in 24 relief appearances in Triple-A.  He one-upped himself upon going to the Bronx, stringing together 12 straight scoreless appearances.

21. Justin Christian, 2B/OF

Justin Christian / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Those who know my opinion of Brett Gardner might be surprised to know that I don’t necessarily feel the same way about Justin Christian.  Gardner may have it, but I think Christian really used his ability to single-handedly change the game with his speed while with Trenton.  His inability to handle any of the infield positions well will really hurt him, but I do think there’s a place in the big leagues for Justin Christian.

22. Bronson Sardinha, OF

Sardinha spent most of 2006 in Trenton, hitting .254 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI.  He was called up to Triple-A in mid-July and finished the year there.

23. Kevin Thompson, OF

Thompson made his big league debut in 2006, hitting .300 in 30 MLB at-bats for the Yankees.

24. T.J. Beam, P

Although he could never quite translate his Double-A success to the big leagues, Beam had to be one of the more impressive relievers in Thunder history.  In 18 games, he was 4-0 with a microscopic ERA of 0.86.

25. Garrett Patterson, P

Patterson walked 37 and struck out 39 in 50 innings with Single-A Charleston in 2006, not exactly helping his case to climb the prospect ladder.

26. Andy Phillips, 1B/3B

Phillips had his longest stay yet in the big leagues in 2006, spending the entire year with the Yankees and playing in a career high 110 games.

27. Rudy Guillen, OF

Guillen dropped 15 spots from his #12 ranking in 2005.  After hitting .173 for the Thunder in 2006, he fell off the map all together.

28. Kevin Reese, OF

Reese got some time in the show in 2006, driving in the only Major League run of his career in 12 at-bats.

29. Jason Stephens, P

Stephens appeared in only eight games in 2006, going 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA at Single-A Charleston.

30. Jeff Karstens, P

Karstens got his career back on track in Trenton in 2006, going 6-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 11 starts after being sent down from Triple-A Columbus.  He made his Major League debut in late August of that year, and established himself as a contender for the Yankees starting rotation in 2007.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Breaking News: Yankees Spring Invite List

January 15, 2008

Just got this list of non-roster players the Yankees have invited to Spring Training…

C Kyle Anson, C Jason Brown, INF Bernie Castro, OF Justin Christian, OF Colin Curtis, INF Eric Duncan, OF Brett Gardner, RHP Daniel Giese, INF Nick Green, RHP Alan Horne, OF Austin Jackson, RHP Steven Jackson, OF Jason Lane, RHP Daniel McCutchen, RHP Mark Melancon, C Jesus Montero, LHP Heath Phillips, C P.J. Pilittere, OF Greg Porter, INF Cody Ransom, RHP Darrell Rasner, C Austin Romine, RHP Scott Strickland, OF Jose Tabata, LHP Billy Traber and INF Marcos Vechionacci.

If my math is correct, 11 Thunder alums are on the list — Brown, Christian, Curtis, Duncan, Gardner, Horne, A. Jackson, S. Jackson, McCutchen, Pilittere and Vechionacci.

It’s interesting to me that Kyle Anson got an invite.  Although Anson has only played at low-A Charleston last season, he’ll turn 25 a few weeks into the 2008 season, so it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that he could be a candidate to catch in Trenton if the Yankees don’t think Francisco Cervelli is ready for the jump — although that seems like a very unlikely scenario.

I also wonder if this is Eric Duncan’s last chance to make an impact when it matters.  I think the fact that he was unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and went unclaimed speaks volumes as to how far he’s plummeted in baseball circles.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Baseball America Reveals Top Yankee Prospects

January 7, 2008

Baseball America finally made public their much anticipated list of top 10 Yankees prospects today.  Annually, the magazine releases a prospect handbook that has full scouting reports of the top 30 prospects in each organization, which is pretty much the equivalent of the bible for anyone who covers minor league baseball.

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s the list:

1. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
2. Austin Jackson, of
3. Jose Tabata, of
4. Ian Kennedy, rhp
5. Alan Horne, rhp
6. Jesus Montero, c
7. Jeff Marquez, rhp
8. Brett Gardner, of
9. Ross Ohlendorf, rhp
10. Andrew Brackman, rhp

It’s really hard to argue with the number one pick, Joba Chamberlain.  The guy was absolutely lights out at every stop of the minors, and Trenton was no exception.  I was fortunate enough to watch his dominant performance against Harrisburg, where he struck out the side in order twice, and ended up with 12 strikeouts in just six innings of work.

The Senators were a pretty horrendous team to begin with, but he made them look like Little Leaguers out there.

I’m glad that they decided to put Jackson as high as they did, although I’d be willing to bet there are some Yankee fans out there who might take umbrage with it.  He was incredibly impressive during the Thunder playoffs, and to think that both he and the #3 pick, Jose Tabata, will be in the same outfield next season should be enough to make those same fans salivate.

I was also in the house for Ian Kennedy’s Double-A debut against Binghamton, where he faced off against the top pitching prospect from the Mets, Kevin Mulvey.  I didn’t feel like Kennedy exhibited the polish that he’s known for in that particular start, but he got a pass from me since it was his first time facing Double-A hitters.  Obviously, he went on to show that he was worthy of a Major League call-up.

I’d really like the opportunity to see him again, but my projections for him seem to be a little lower than everyone else’s, but again…it’s hard not to be jaded by that first start.

I like Alan Horne at #5, I think the guy is a workhorse and think he has the potential to make more of an impact than Kennedy at the big league level.  Given the success of Chamberlain and Kennedy, Horne was able to win Eastern League Pitcher of the Year pretty quietly.  I’ll be curious to see how he does with a little more pressure on him this season.

Jesus Montero wont turn 19 until November 28th, and has just one professional season under his belt.  He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on, but you’d have to think he’s probably two years away from setting foot in Waterfront Park.

I think Marquez at #7 is a little high, and I’m well aware of his league leading wins total last season.  I’m pretty sure you’ll see him at Triple-A Scranton next season, and deservedly so, but just like Horne, I wonder what he does with a lot more pressure on him for the 2008 season.

To be honest, I’ve never really understood the fascination with Brett Gardner, who spent the last half of 2006 and the first half of 2007 with Trenton.  He’s above average in the field because of his well above average speed, but he has no power whatsoever and is pretty much a singles hitter despite the aforementioned speed.  I can’t see him being a regular player in the big leagues, especially on the Yankees, but if he can develop his bat a little more this season, I could justify his spot at #8.

Ohlendorf is a guy who will likely never put on Thunder colors, and could actually end up on the Opening Day roster in the big leagues this season.  He didn’t blow anyone away while at Scranton, but performed very well in limited action in the Bronx.

Andrew Brackman at #10 is a little surprising, but I guess he replaces either Dellin Betances or Humberto Sanchez as the “guy who’s injured but we still think has a lot of promise” selection.  I’ll be a little curious to see where Brackman’s path takes him, but when he arrives in Trenton is up in the air.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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