Archive for March 11th, 2008

2008 Baseball America Top 30: #16-20

March 11, 2008

The Thunder Thoughts breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees Prospects for 2008 returns today with a look at prospects #16-20.  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 definitely know by now 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.

#16 SS Carmen Angelini – A 10th round selection in the 2007 draft, Angelini was all set to go to national power-house Rice to play his college baseball, when the Yankees changed his mind. They brought him to Yankee Stadium and let him work out alongside A-Rod and Derek Jeter. That trip and a $1 million dollar signing bonus convinced Angelini to join the Yankees Organization. They believe that one day he could be the next home-grown shortstop to play in New York. A line-drive hitter, with good speed, and good range at shortstop, Angelini might skip short-season Staten Island and play at Charleston (Low-A) in 2008.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: The Yankees don’t really have a lot of prospects in the middle infield, but the truth is that they really don’t need many.  Angelini has all the tools to succeed, but is just 18 years old and has a lot of learning to do.  In my opinion, Angelini would be best suited at Staten Island, where he wont be rushed and will have time to develop his game as an everyday player.

#17 RHP George Kontos – Just like Alan Horne did in 2007, Kontos has a chance to make one the quickest jumps in the system in 2008. He skipped a level in 2007, and had a so-so season in Tampa which included off the field trouble. Kontos did have a good showing in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League. A sinker/slider pitcher with an improving change-up, Kontos has the stuff to make a name for himself in Trenton during 2008. He does need to cut down on giving up the long ball. He allowed only three home runs in 78 IP with Staten Island in 2006, compared with 15 home runs in 94 IP during 2007.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Maybe Austin Krum and George Kontos can get together sometime to discuss how to make a name for yourself the wrong way.  Kontos got arrested in Tampa last year after failing to leave the “Green Iguana Bar and Grill.”  However, he was able to put the incident behind him and put together a nice year in Tampa, posting a 4-6 record and 4.02 ERA.  He’s likely to join Trenton’s rotation this season, and he’s on a lot of people’s radars as someone who can move through the system quickly.

#18 RHP Ivan Nova – A product of the Dominican Republic, the 21-year-old Nova is about to enter his fourth year in the Yankees Organization. Despite possessing three quality pitches (fastball/curveball/change-up), he is still learning how to pitch consistently. He got off to a fast start in Charleston last season, but struggled down the stretch. Nova gave up 121 hits in 99 IP, which is of concern. He will most likely repeat in South Atlantic League at Charleston, but has the ability to put up better numbers in 2008.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Super.  I am nicknaming the man “Super.”  Deal with it.  A tall righty, Nova is probably a year or two away from Trenton.  He struggled last year at Charleston (6-8, 4.98) and is going back there this year to show that was just a fluke.  Batters hit .306 against him last year, and he’s going to have to get that number way down if he wants to make a name for himself in a crowded list of talented Yankees pitching prospects.

#19 OF Colin Curtis – A former member of Arizona State’s College World Series team in 2005, Curtis continues to climb up the prospect ladder even though he doesn’t profile exceptionally well in any particular area. That is a testament to the well-rounded nature of his game. He has decent speed, a good understanding of the game, and hits to all fields. Defensively he is solid in left field, but lacks the power to develop into a major league corner outfielder. As a cancer survivor, no one will ever question his work ethic and desire. Because of his makeup, it is intriguing to see what area of his game will be better in 2008. He will return to Trenton and be part of one of the most talented outfield corps in all of minor league baseball.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Last year, it was Trenton’s starting pitching that got all the attention.  This year, it’ll be the outfielders.  Curtis will join Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata as “the other guy” in a talented trio of outfielders.  But Curtis is highly regarded by the Yankees and is making a strong impression in spring training, and showing defensive prowess by making a diving catch earlier this spring.Curtis is a great story, and it’s hard not to root for someone that’s been through what he has.  But he’s going to have to improve his offensive numbers from last year’s .242-3-15 to take that story to the next level.

#20 RHP Jairo Heredia – An 18-year old signed from the Dominican Republic in 2006, Heredia has a live arm even though he is slightly more diminutive than some of the other right-handed pitching prospects in the Organization. The Yankees felt comfortable enough with Heredia, to skip him from the Rookie Level Dominican Summer League to the Gulf Coast League in 2007. A fastball/curve/changeup pitcher, Heredia has also worked hard to learn English. He uses a lot of effort in his delivery, which has been compared to a less exaggerated Dontrelle Willis motion. The Yankees haven’t developed a high impact Latin American pitcher since Mariano Rivera and Ramiro Mendoza. Could Heredia be the next one on the list?

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Heredia had a strong professional debut last year, going 2-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 11 games with the Gulf Coast League Yankees.  Just 18 years old, he’s a long way away from Trenton, but could be here by 2010 if he continues to progress as he has.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

Billy Crystal’s A Yankee. No, Seriously.

March 11, 2008

Straight from the Yankees…The New York Yankees today announced that they will sign Billy Crystal, star of movies, television and Broadway to a one-day contract and invited him to Major League spring training. 

Crystal will join the Yankees on Wednesday, March 12 to work out with the club at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla., and then play in the Yankees’ game on Thursday, March 13 vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates at Legends Field. Commissioner Selig approved the Yankees’ extension of the contract to Crystal.

Crystal, who will turn 60 years old on March 14, will don uniform No. 60 with the Yankees.  He has created one of the most versatile and prolific careers in the entertainment industry, finding success in front of the camera, as a performer in film and television, and behind the scenes as a writer, director and producer.  The Hollywood icon has starred in movies such as Running Scared, Throw Momma from the Train, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Mr. Saturday Night, Forget Paris, Hamlet, Deconstructing Harry, Analyze This, Monster’s Inc. and America’s Sweethearts

“I’ve been waiting 50 years for this call,” Crystal exclaimed.  “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the Yankees and Commissioner Selig.  I know this’ll be tougher than the Broadway Softball League, but I’m looking forward to helping the younger players…which, by the way, is all of them. Oops, I have to go, Scott Boras is on the phone.”

A captain of his Long Beach (N.Y.) High School baseball team, Crystal batted .348 in his senior season. He is regarded as one of the best baseball players in Hollywood today.  

“The Yankees are excited to welcome the newest member of our team known for his humor and wit as well as his undying love for the Yankees,” said Lonn Trost, Yankees Chief Operating Officer. “The Yankees are very grateful to the Commissioner’s office for allowing us to extend this special invitation to Mr. Crystal.”

In 2001, Crystal directed and produced the film *61 which chronicled the historic seasons of Yankees greats Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle as they sought to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record.  The film garnered 12 Emmy nominations including nods for “Best Director” and “Best Made for Television Movie” and also earned Crystal a prestigious Director’s Guild nomination. 

Crystal made his Broadway debut in 2004 with 700 Sundays, an autobiographical one-man play that became the highest grossing non-musical in the history of Broadway and garnered Crystal the Tony Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, and the prestigious Drama Desk Award.  A dedicated human rights advocate, Crystal co-hosted, with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg, all eight “Comic Relief” telethons on HBO which brought the plight of the nation’s homeless to the public and raised over $40 million for housing and medical care for the needy.

A native of New York, Crystal has been married for 37 years to Janice, with whom he has two daughters, Jennifer and Lindsay, and granddaughter’s Ella and Dylan.  He proclaims himself to be a lifetime fan of the New York Yankees, idolizing Mickey Mantle during his youth.