Posts Tagged ‘Melky Cabrera’

Alumni Sunday: Melky Cabrera

April 20, 2008

When he was just 20 years old, Melky Cabrera found himself in Bill Masse’s lineup every day for the Trenton Thunder.

Combine the location with the playing time he got, and it was a chance that Cabrera relished, hitting .275 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI during that 2005 season.

“I liked to play in Trenton,” Cabrera said. 

“It was good to get the opportunity to play every day in the minors.  I liked Trenton.”

Even at the Double-A level, being 20 years old is still considered very young.  Was it tough being that young and being at such a high level?

“A little bit,” he said.

Cabrera made his Yankees debut about a month short of his 21st birthday, and has played 280 games over the past two seasons in the Bronx.

One of his more memorable contests would have to be just a few weeks back, when he made two spectacular defensive plays and hit a solo home run to lead the Yankees to a season opening victory against the Blue Jays.

The hero of the last Opening Day to be held at Yankee Stadium, Cabrera was just happy to be on the field.

“I was very happy to have the opportunity to play Opening Day, it was unbelievable,” said Cabrera, telling me he was honored to be starting in center field.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Thunder Announce All 15 Year Team

April 7, 2008

C: Dioner Navarro

INF: Tony Clark, Robinson Cano, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Youkilis, Pork Chop Pough

OF: Kevin Thompson, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner

P: Phil Hughes, Justin Pope, Joba Chamberlain, Scott Patterson, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Ron Mahay, Corey Spencer, Jeff Suppan, Joe Hudson

Manager: Tony Franklin

We will continue our breakdown of the starting pitching, relief pitching and manager ballots shortly…let’s see if the fans made the right choices.

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 lose to Twins, 7-5

March 5, 2008

The Yankees lost to Minnesota, 7-5, today.  Not a real great pitching performance from anyone involved, but Edwar Ramirez in particular struggled.  I did some sporadic live updates throughout the game, sooooo…

For those unfortunate souls (such as myself) who don’t get the YES Network (I suppose that would make it the No Network) the Yankees are playing the Twins right now on ESPN.

Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera are the Thunder alums currently in the field, while Ian Kennedy got the start for the Yankees.

Kennedy’s final line: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K

Heath Phillips came in for the third…

The game is in the fourth inning now, and Joba Chamberlain is in.  This should be good.

Well, maybe not.  Garrett Jones just hit an absolute bomb off of Chamberlain in the fifth, and Joba just drilled the next batter on the first pitch.  Uh-oh.

Jonathan Albaladejo in for Joba.  Not a stellar outing for either Kennedy or Chamberlain.

Shelley Duncan now in the game.  Score remains 4-3 Yankees.

Seventh inning, game now 4-4.  Albaladejo out, Edwar Ramirez is in.  With a runner on, he got the strikeout and got out of the jam.  He’ll probably start the season in Scranton, but he did well for himself in this particular spot.

It’s in the eighth, and Edwar has nailed a batter as well and threw his next pitch high and in to the following Twins hitter.

Just kind of waiting for one of Minnesota’s guys to nail a Yankee at this point…

Twins take a 6-4 lead in the 8th.  Edwar got into a jam, and couldn’t get himself out of it.  He gave up a bases loaded double, and there’s still two on with only one out.

Colin Curtis just made a dazzling, diving play in left field to bail out Ramirez to an extent.  It’s 7-4 now after the sac fly, and with two outs, that’s it for Ramirez.  Definitely not the outing he wanted…he’s given up three runs, and the runner on second is his.

Chris Britton’s been in since, Ross Ohlendorf’s now on the mound.

Shelley Duncan just crushed a ball over the left field fence, and the Yankees trail 7-5 in the 9th.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Henn Steps Up, White Does Not *UPDATED*

March 3, 2008

Not counting rehab assignments, nine players with time on the Trenton Thunder roster played in yesterday’s exhibition game between the Yankees and Phillies.

Steven White, who’s had an up and down past few years, got off to a bad start this spring.  In relief of Andy Pettitte, he allowed four runs on five hits and two walks in just an inning and two thirds.

Scott Patterson finished out the fourth for him and induced a groundout with a runner on.

Sean Henn rebounded from his poor outing (which didn’t count in the official spring training stats, by the way) to allow just one hit in the seventh inning while striking out one.

Colin Curtis replaced Bobby Abreu in right field and went 1-for-2 with a strikeout.

Juan Miranda replaced the prolific Jason Giambi at first base and was 0-for-1.

Robinson Cano started the game at second base and was 1-for-3 with a strikeout.

Alberto Gonzalez was 1-for-1 with an RBI after replacing Cano.

Melky Cabrera was the starting center fielder and went 0-for-1 with a walk and an RBI.

Justin Christian replaced him and went 0-for-1.

The game ended in a 7-7 tie.

Note: Justin Christian, and not Alberto Gonzalez, appears to have had the game-tying RBI in this game.  The official boxscore would then be incorrect.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Making David Letterman Proud…

January 19, 2008

While our Top 20 Moments of 2007 countdown returns on Monday, I figured that with the 2008 Baseball America Prospect Handbook set to reach bookstores very soon, it might be time to revisit some of their picks from years back.

For starters, let’s take a look at their top 30 Yankees prospects from 2004 and see how they turned out…

1. Dioner Navarro, C

Dioner Navarro / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2004)

While I will always think that dealing Dioner Navarro was a mistake, it’s also fair to say that he didn’t turn out quite the way a lot of people thought he would.  Only at the last trade deadline were the Yankees able to acquire an adequate backup catcher in Jose Molina, but this is a role that Navarro easily could have filled instead.

Traded in the Randy Johnson deal, he’s spent the past two seasons with the Dodgers and Devil Rays.  Since L.A. shipped him off to Tampa, his stats have steadily declined, and he hit a career low .227 in 119 games last season.

2. Eric Duncan, 3B

It’s interesting that while Shelley Duncan was crushing the ball at every stop of the Yankees organization, it was Eric that was getting the recognition as a top prospect.  Now, Eric is about a year away from being considered a total bust, while it’s Shelley who set the world on fire in the Bronx last year.

Frequently hampered by injuries, the Yankees first pick in 2003 struggled last season in Triple-A Scranton, hitting .241 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI.

He was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft, and went unclaimed.

3. Rudy Guillen, OF

It’s really hard to believe he was the 3rd best prospect in the Yankees organization at one time.  He spent parts of two seasons in Trenton, and after hitting a paltry .173 in 21 games in Double-A in 2006, he attempted a conversion to pitcher.

Last season for the Gulf Coast League Yankees, he appeared in three games, and allowed three runs in four innings of work.

4. Joaquin Arias, SS

Arias was dealt to Texas right before the start of the 2004 season and actually reached the big leagues with Texas in 2006.  He hit .545 in six games, collecting an RBI.  He only appeared in five games last season at the minor league level, and missed the majority of the season after suffering a shoulder injury.

5. Ramon Ramirez, P

Ten years from now, if anyone remembers Ramirez at all, they’ll recall that he got busted for performance enhancing drugs.  In reality, Ramirez was a pretty solid pitcher who played for the Thunder in parts of three seasons.

As has been mentioned here before, the converted outfielder was dealt in the deal that netted the Yankees future Hall of Famer Shawn Chacon.  He has appeared in 83 games for the Rockies over the past two seasons, but struggled last year after an impressive 4-3 record and 3.46 ERA in 2006.

6. Robinson Cano, 2B

Robinson Cano / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Is there really anything new I can tell you about Robinson Cano?  Along with Navarro, he was one of the first true top prospects that the Thunder had under their relatively new affiliation with the Yankees.  He joined Trenton in July of 2003, and stayed there until he eventually hit his way to Triple-A in June of 2004.

He briefly returned to Trenton during his All-Star season of 2006, rehabbing an injury in three games at Waterfront Park.  Cano was very generous with his time with the media, and also with the fans, and reminded everyone why he was one of the more popular players in Thunder history.

7. Ferdin Tejeda, SS

Tejeda is the second position player in the top 10 who crapped out and tried a conversion to the mound.  He wowed Thunder fans with a .174 batting average in 30 games during the 2004 season, and lasted one more year as a middle infielder before trying his hand as a relief pitcher.

He was actually quite good last season in Charleston, going 2-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 31 games. 

8. Jorge DePaula, P

Jorge DePaula / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Those looking for a sign that the Yankees pitching depth has improved need look no further than DePaula being ranked as their second best pitching prospect just four years ago.  I personally liked DePaula a lot, and he was subject of the very first feature I ever did on the Thunder.

But the Yankees got very little out of him (10 games over a three year span) after he battled injuries, and he eventually went back to the Rockies organization for 2007.  A 6.41 ERA in 19 games at Triple-A Colorado Springs earned him his release.

9. Estee Harris, OF

Harris was the Yankees second round pick in the 2003 draft.  That’s pretty much the extent of good moments he had under the Yankees umbrella.  He never made it out of Charleston, hitting .216 in 2005 and a mind-numbing .177 in 2006.

He eventually ended up with the Road Warriors of the independent Atlantic League last season, and spent most of the season there before being acquired by the Long Island Ducks of the same league.

10. Bronson Sardinha, 3B

No, that’s not a typo.  Sardinha was a third baseman at the time, and stayed that way through the 2004 season before being converted to an outfielder in Trenton for the 2005 campaign.

He was also still pretty highly regarded as a top prospect in the organization, but his average play over the next few seasons would eventually send him down the Top 30 list.  But the Yankees still thought enough of him to protect him on their 40-man roster before the start of last season, and he somewhat imexplicably got a big league call-up despite hitting just .222 in Triple-A last year.

11. Eduardo Sierra, P

Has yet to crack the big leagues after nine seasons in the minors.  Was dealt in the Shawn Chacon trade.

12. Chien-Ming Wang, P

Quite possibly the most underrated starting pitcher in the game.  He’s 38-13 in his last two seasons with the Yankees, and has emerged as a perennial Cy Young contender.  Oddly enough, the highest ERA of his minor league career came in Trenton in 2003 (4.65).

13. Scott Proctor, P

Was one of Joe Torre’s most reliable relievers before being traded back to Los Angeles, where they’re now re-united.

14. Danny Borrell, P

One of the game’s good guys, Borrell was tantalizingly close to the big leagues before injuries essentially ended his career…or so everyone thought.  He came back last season with the Oakland Athletics organization, and went 3-3 with a 2.80 ERA in 19 games, including nine starts.

15. Matt DeSalvo, P

DeSalvo recently signed with the Braves organization after finally putting it all together and getting a chance at the big league level in the Bronx last year.

16. Hector Made, SS

A made man by name only, the undersized Dominican was traded to the Phillies in the Sal Fasano deal.  Entering his seventh season in the minors, he briefly reached Double-A last season, hitting a home run for his only hit in ten at-bats.

17. Sean Henn, P

Henn had his best chance of securing a regular spot in the Yankees bullpen last season, but essentially blew it after posting an ERA of over seven in 29 games.

18. Mark Phillips, P

Phillips returned to professional baseball for the first time since 2003 last year, appearing in seven games for the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League.

19. Melky Cabrera, OF

Got Melky?  The Yankees still do, despite numerous trade rumors involving the young outfielder.  Several analysts have predicted the Thunder alum will be a breakout player in 2008, but for which team?

20. Jose Garcia, P

Garcia was traded to Texas in February of 2004, and eventually found his way to the Cardinals organization.  Released midway through last season by St. Louis, he also went to Newark of the Atlantic League, where he and Phillips won a championship.

21. Jose Valdez, P

Did not pitch in the 2005 season, and appeared in only 14 in 2006.  In his first full year back, Valdez went 3-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 37 relief appearances in Tampa.

22. Michael Vento, OF

Vento appeared in two games for the Yankees in 2005 before joining the Nationals organization the following season.  The career .282 hitter in the minor leagues collected five hits in nine games with Washington before spending all of 2007 in Triple-A Syracuse with the Blue Jays.

23. J.T. Stotts, SS/2B

Stotts did not play last season.  He hit just .228 with no home runs and 21 RBI in 86 games for the Thunder in 2006, primarily being used as a utility infielder.

24. Brad Halsey, P

Halsey made his Bronx debut in 2004 after going 11-4 with a 2.63 ERA for Columbus.  He pitched in a grand total of eight games for the Yankees before being shipped west to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson deal.  After joining Oakland in 2006, he was converted to a reliever, but appeared in just three games last season due to injury.

25. Jason Stephens, P

In five seasons of minor league baseball, has appeared in just 61 games.  The sixth rounder is 17-9 with a 2.68 ERA when he does pitch, however.

26. Jon-Mark Sprowl, C

Sprowl did not play last season, and most recently played in 2006 as a member of the Cubs organization.  He hit just .118 at the Single-A level.

27. Erick Almonte, SS

Another player who eventually went to independent baseball, Almonte was off of the affiliated map by 2006 and ended up as a member of the independent Long Island Ducks.  The man best known as Derek Jeter’s temporary replacement was eventually picked up by the Detroit Tigers and played well for them at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last season.

28. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard threw the first no-hitter in Thunder history, and made a very steady climb as a prospect in the organization.  But with a glut of starting pitching prospects — something that was clearly not a problem when this list came out — he was dealt this off-season to Washington for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo.

29. Ben Julianel, P

Julianel had two relatively unremarkable years in the Yankees system before joining the Marlins organization in 2006.  He reached Triple-A for the first time last season.

30. Mike Knox, P

Knox last pitched in 2005, where he had an 11.50 ERA in 14 games for Single-A Tampa.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

In the meantime…

January 3, 2008

As a reporter, but especially in my many years as a fan, you tend to notice that there are some things that some teams do better than others.  For example, the Thunder have consistently had the best giveaways in the area, and this season will be no different.  A steady supply of bobbleheads, player-themed giveaways, and of course the ever popular fireworks nights (a nightmare for the press for a variety of reasons, by the way) litter the Trenton schedule this season.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights…

April 10th: Fireworks and Desktop Championship Ring Replicas (First 2,000 fans)

April 14th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume One (First 1,500 fans)

April 25th: Thunder Championship Hats (First 1,500 fans)

April 26th: Joba Chamberlain Youth Jersey Night (First 1,000 fans, ages 5-15)

May 27th: Robinson Cano Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

May 28th: Shelley Duncan Bobbleheads (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 10th: Yankee T-Shirt Night (First 1,000 fans)

June 11th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 12th: Camouflage Jersey Auction and Fireworks

June 20th: Thunder Card Set Giveaway (First 1,500 fans)

June 23rd: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Two (First 1,500 fans)

June 25th: Chien-Ming Wang Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

June 30th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Three (First 1,500 fans)

July 3rd: American Flag Jersey Auction

July 8th: 15th Season Collectors Yearbook Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 18+)

July 9th: Phil Hughes Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

July 25th: Thunder Championship Banners (First 2,000 fans)

July 27th: Melky Cabrera Thunder Youth Jersey Night (First 1,500 fans, ages 5-15)

July 28th: All 15 Year Team Card Pack, Volume Four (First 1,500 fans)

July 30th: Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy Dual Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 8th: Tony Franklin Eastern League Champion Bronze Statue (First 2,000 fans)

August 13th: Ian Kennedy Bobblehead (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 20th: Bobblehead (to be determined) (First 2,000 fans, ages 6 and up)

August 31st: Fan Appreciation/Joba Chamberlain Player Statue (First 2,000 fans)

As you can see, there are quite a few neat items that the team is giving away this year, and there were a lot more that I didn’t mention.  Logo baseballs, other kids-themed giveaways and so on.  There are a bunch more fireworks nights as well, but again, fireworks are to my job are what someone like Lumberg from Office Space would be to yours.

Yeeeeeeeeeah, I’m gonna hafta go ahead and try to talk to you while loud explosions are going off in every direction, mmmmkay?  And then, if you could go ahead and make me listen to the audio of the conversation with the fireworks making loud popping noises in my ears so that it’s impossible to understand what you’re saying, that would be greeeeeeeeeat.

Anyway, my personal favorite of the bunch would have to be the Kennedy & Chamberlain dual bobblehead, that’s a pretty neat idea that’s been used by other teams in the minor leagues.

I do try to get as many items as I can — and to be clear, I get them by purchasing tickets like everybody else…the Thunder do not provide their giveaway items to the media as many teams do, the Yankees included — and if I get any extras, I might be able to give them away in some sort of contest depending on the popularity of this blog…so stay tuned for that.

For the complete schedule, check out the Thunder’s website.

Check back tomorrow for #20 in my countdown to the best moment for the Thunder in 2007.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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