The Thunder Thoughts breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees Prospects for 2008 returns today with a look at prospects #21-25. As you know by now, the Thunder’s new lead broadcaster, Steve Rudenstein, is on board to provide some analysis for this.
Steve’s done a great job of providing his expert analysis on each player, and I’ll throw my “Thunder Thoughts” in there after each of his player breakdowns.
As for Steve’s work, you should know that the below commentary are opinions solely from Steve Rudenstein, and do not represent the opinions of the Trenton Thunder (Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees) and the New York Yankees.
#21 1B Juan Miranda – A Cuban defect to the Dominican Republic, Miranda signed a four year, $4 million contract with the Yankees in 2006. There are questions about the legitimacy of his age, but Miranda makes up for the age questions with his bat. He had the most RBI of anyone in the Organization in 2007. Considering the fact that Miranda had not played organized baseball prior to this past season since his defect in 2004, he should continue to get better in 2008. Even though he can’t run that well and is still a work in progress defensively at first base, there is no reason why Miranda can’t be a 1B/DH platoon at the Major League level very soon. He can tattoo the baseball and hit it a mile.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: This is a big year for Juan Miranda. As Steve mentioned, what year of his life this is appears to be unknown, but the fact that he’s a legitimate power threat has put those issues on the backburner. The worst thing you can do when analyzing someone’s defense is to call them a butcher. Miranda isn’t one, but he does have some butcher-esque tendencies in the field and for the time being seems to project as a designated hitter. While slow guys who can’t field all that well and have a lot of power aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, they aren’t the scarcest commodity in baseball either. Miranda’s bat will take him to the big leagues at some point within the next two years, but he’s going to need to develop a lot more than that to stay there. Whether he plays at Trenton or Scranton this season, he’s going to need to show some all-around improvement to make a name for himself in the crowded battle for the first base position in the Bronx.
If you’re resigned to the fact that Miranda will be nothing more than a designated hitter — as some are — then the number to watch out for this season will be his strikeouts. He’s done a good job of keeping them down so far, but he’s going to need to continue doing that if his play in the field doesn’t improve.
#22 C Austin Romine – With Jorge Posada agreeing to a new four-year contract in the off-season, The Yankees are hopeful that some day either Montero or Romine will eventually succeed him. Romine was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, and impressed Yankees’ officials with his athleticism and arm strength. He suffered a ligament tear in his left thumb at the end of his prep career, so hopefully the injury won’t affect his play this season. He is a year older than Montero and will play at a more advanced level this season, but ultimately will have to prove that he is a better prospect.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: The Yankees second round selection in 2007, Austin Romine appears to be the complete package. He can hit for average and power, and has a laser of an arm. However, he only turned 19 years old about four months ago, and still has a lot of developing to do to translate his game to the pro level. Of all the catching prospects the Yankees have — Jesus Montero included — I think Romine could be the quickest mover. You won’t see him in Trenton for a while, and it will very interesting to see who gets there first…Romine or Montero.
#23 C Francisco Cervelli – Cervelli is older and more experienced than Romine and Montero, but doesn’t project nearly as high. He skipped a level in 2007, jumping from Staten Island to Tampa and held his own. He led the Florida State League by throwing out 41 percent of base-stealers and exhibits good defensive intangibles. The reason Cervelli doesn’t project higher is because of his bat. He has hit for average, but doesn’t hit with much power (only six home runs in 247 minor league games). However, he still will only be 22 once the season starts. He was added to the 40-man roster in November, and stands a decent chance to make it to New York in the not too distant future, albeit if it is only as a back-up to Posada.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Despite being ranked 23rd on this list, there is a lot of hype surrounding Francisco Cervelli. At 22 years old, Cervelli is very likely to make the jump to Double-A Trenton to start the season, where those who follow the organization will be watching closely to see if his offensive abilities can match his already well-refined defensive prowess. Already on the 40-man roster, Cervelli can already taste the big leagues, but it would be very surprising to see him achieve that goal this season.
#24 RHP David Robertson – Robertson opened some eyes by handling Charleston (Low-A) and Tampa (High-A) with ease during his first professional season. He went 8-3 with a 0.96 ERA in 44 combined appearances, including two games with the Thunder. He also did not give up a home run last year. Because of the abundance of right-handed middle relief pitchers in the Yankees Minor League System, he still has his work cut out for him. A fastball/curveball/slider pitcher, Robertson likes to work down in the zone because he doesn’t throw extremely hard. At only 5’11” 180 pounds, Robertson will have to prove himself at every level. But after a sensational debut season, he is on the radar.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Picked in the 17th round in 2006, David Robertson has moved through the Yankees farm system pretty quickly. Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why. Batters hit just .154 against him over three levels last season, and he has yet to allow his first professional home run in 84 innings of work. However, he’s a solid middle reliever in a system full of them, and he’s going to have a make a real strong impression this season to distinguish himself among a talented group of Yankee farmhands. It’s very possible he’ll start the season at Waterfront Park.
#25 LHP Mike Dunn – The Yankees Minor League System is littered from top to bottom with right-handed starting pitching prospects. Dunn, may be the best of a limited amount of left-handed starting pitching prospects. He started his minor league career as an outfielder, but when he hit under the Mendoza line for parts of two seasons, the Yankees converted him to a pitcher. A fastball/slider/change-up pitcher, Dunn is coming off a very good season at Charleston. He went 12-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 27 starts. Because he will turn 23 in May, Dunn has little margin for error because he has a long way to go in the organization. He will head to Tampa, and could be promoted to Trenton quickly if he experiences early success in 2008.
Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Mike Dunn is one of a growing list of Yankees prospects to flame out in the field and turn to the pitching mound as a last chance. I think I’d be a little more optimistic about Dunn’s chances were it not for what happened with Kevin Whelan last season. Whelan converted from a catcher to a pitcher in college, and struggled more than the numbers might show in Trenton last season. Considering his standout season at Charleston last year, Dunn is a strong candidate to jump to Double-A this season. But this level is a whole different beast, perhaps the most challenging stop in all of minor league baseball, and Dunn will have to show that he’s a “real pitcher” and not just some guy who can blow the ball past people because of his strong arm.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com