Posts Tagged ‘George Kontos’

Scott Aldred On: George Kontos

April 22, 2008

This is the last of five posts where Trenton Thunder pitching coach Scott Aldred breaks down the starting rotation, pitcher-by-pitcher. 

Scott isn’t the easiest guy to track down, but he took a break from looking at video of his pitchers just to give me a few minutes.  So this won’t be as in-depth as I think some of you might want, but hopefully this provides some answers to any specific questions you may have.

George Kontos is last on the list…

TT: Last, but not least, is George Kontos.  I haven’t been lucky enough to see him in person yet, so I’d be very curious to hear your assessment of him so far…

SA: “George has some delivery issues that we’re trying to work on so he can be consistent with all three of his pitches.  Four, actually.  He throws curveball, though you don’t hardly see it in games.  Once that’s resolved, you’re going to see a different George Kontos.  He’s got a plus slider, the changeup’s coming, both fastballs.  He’s got a real nice arm and a bright future.  We just have to make sure we’re hammering this delivery issue right now.  Get it resolved and then move on.”

TT: How long does it take for someone to make the adjustment from High-A to Double-A like Kontos has had to do?  Is there an adjustment at all?

SA: “There’s some adjustment, yeah.  Breaking balls get hit a little more.  Everything gets hit just a little bit more.  It’s like that everywhere, when you move up things just get hit a little more.  Here, certain pitches you throw and you’re accustomed to striking guys out, or you’re accustomed to them swinging at it, it doesn’t happen all the time.  It’ll still happen, you’ve just got to approach it a little differently.”

TT: Were there any effects with George from going on three days rest?

SA: “Nope.  He handled it just fine.”

TT: Are there generally any effects on your arm from doing something like that, either immediate or long-term in regards to stamina or discomfort?

SA: “Not long-term, no.  We monitor pitch loads.  He threw 75 one day and then 80 the next, and it was minimal.  It would be one thing if he threw three starts in a row with 120 pitches and we asked him to come back on short day’s rest and throw 100 pitches.  That would probably be different.  But they’re barely breaking a sweat right now.”

Game 7: Trenton @ Altoona

April 9, 2008

Game 7 – Trenton Thunder @ Altoona Curve
April 9, 2008
Blair County Ballpark – Altoona, PA

Pitching Matchup: TRE George Kontos (0-1, 3.00) vs. ALT Derek Hankins (0-0, 0.00)

Starting Lineups:

Trenton (4-2) (4-2 road record, 2-0 vs. Altoona)

1 – Reegie Corona, SS
2 – Austin Jackson, CF
3 – Jose Tabata, RF
4 – Colin Curtis, LF
5 – Matt Carson, DH
6 – Cody Ehlers, 1B
7 – Joe Muich, C
8 – Marcos Vechionacci, 3B
9 – Chris Malec, 2B

Altoona (1-5) (1-5 home record, 0-2 vs. Thunder)

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

Farm Fresh: Our apparently now daily look at what’s going on elsewhere in the system…

(AAA) Scranton – While it hasn’t worked out for either highly touted pitcher at the big league level just yet, Homer Bailey vs. Kei Igawa is one hell of a matchup at the Triple-A level.  Accordingly, it was a 1-0 game.

But Scranton came out on the short end of the stick, losing on a first inning RBI double by super-prospect Jay Bruce.  Never trust a guy with two first names, kids.

Oddly, Chad Moeller may go from an 0-for-3 night with 3 K’s to the big leagues today.  Jorge Posada came out of the game last night with a shoulder issue.  Somewhere, Francisco Cervelli is throwing darts at a picture of Elliot Johnson.

Chris Britton, Jon Albaladejo and Edwar Ramirez combined for five innings of two-hit relief with four strikeouts.

(A) Tampa – The T-Yanks squeaked out a 1-0 win over Dunedin.  Eric Hacker is the truth, ladies and gentlemen.  Check this line out…

7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

The game was scoreless through nine after a rehabbing Sean Henn blew the perfect game, but Edwar Gonzalez drove in Chris Kunda in the bottom of the 10th for the W.

Seems like the choice is pretty obvious if the Thunder should need a starter early in the year…

(A) Charleston – It was a good night for River Dogs fans last night.  Seven runs, 16 hits and another W out of Dellin Betances added up to a 7-3 win over the Savannah Sand Gnats.

Betances clearly had some control issues, walking six batters in 5.1 innings of work.  But he also struck out eight, and allowed only two runs on two hits.

Every starter had at least one hit except for Taylor Holiday.  Brad Suttle is now hitting .500 after a 3-for-5 night, while Jesus Montero connected for his first A-Ball home run.

A lot of the offense came off of Mike Antonini, the Mets farmhand who was lights out in his debut a few days ago — allowing no hits in six innings — and the subject of a recent MILB.com piece.

Pre-Game Notes: Doubting anyone minds the 4:05 start on a getaway day.

Tim Lavigne, who appeared in 25 games for the Thunder, was recently released by the Baltimore Orioles organization.  Lavigne, who probably started hating his name right around the time a certain Canadian popstar became popular (see: Evan Longoria and Eva) was 0-2 with a 4.93 ERA for Trenton. 

In other moves, Dave Parrish was let go by the Rockies, and Colter Bean was axed by the Braves.  Aaron Rifkin was cut loose by the Marlins, and Gabe Lopez got canned by the Padres.

It is Kontos on the mound.  Incredible they’d let him go on three days rest, regardless of how many pitches he threw.  Phil Hughes could have thrown one pitch on April 5th, and trust me…he would not be pitching today.

Anyway, the pitching matchups have been set for the Harrisburg series.  Incredibly, it looks like Bobby Brownlie will not be pitching for the Senators.  Instead, he’s pitching tonight.  If a stray storm cloud wanted to stay over there for a while so the greedy reporter could get to see Brownlie tomorrow, that would be OK.

4/10: TRE Daniel McCutchen (1-0, 0.00) vs. HAR Shairon Martis (0-0, 9.00)
4/11: TRE Phil Coke (0-0, 6.75) vs. HAR Josh Hall (0-1, 24.00)
4/12: TRE Jason Jones (1-0, 0.00) vs. HAR Marco Estrada (1-0, 5.40)
4/13: TRE Chase Wright (1-1, 2.45) vs. HAR Imsael Ramirez (0-1, 6.75)

Chad Jennings is reporting that Alberto Gonzalez has been called up to New York, and Jason Brown has been activated for Scranton to take his place.  I suppose it’s worth noting that Ramiro Pena isn’t in today’s lineup.

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: After A-Jax singled and Tabata singled him over to third, Colin Curtis hit a sac fly to put the Thunder up 1-0 in the first.  That’s where we stand in the bottom of the 2nd.

The Thunder are trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 3rd.  Gee, it was hard to predict Kontos might run into trouble on short rest.  Anyway, Miguel Perez drove in two runs with a single in the bottom of the 2nd to give Altoona the lead.

Trenton then proceeded to waste a leadoff triple by Chris Malec, and the game remains 2-1.

Same score in the bottom of the 4th.  Matt Carson is now hitless in his last nine at-bats.

2-1, bottom 5.  Trenton has left seven men on base through the first five innings.  Nice game out of Austin Jackson so far, he’s 2-for-3 with a run scored.

The Curve got another run off of Kontos in the 6th, and it’s now 3-1.

Kontos is out, Zach Kroenke is in.  Kontos line: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.

Gotta give Kontos some credit for hanging in there today.  Looking forward to chatting with him and maybe Scott Aldred tomorrow about this whole deal…

Kroenke pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two, and it’s 3-1 going into the 8th.

Hey, hey!  It’s tied 3-3 in Altoona after a two-run single from Reegie Corona.  Eric Wordekemper now in for the Thunder.

Three up, three down for the Thunder in the top of the 9th.  Altoona goes into the bottom of the frame with a chance for a walk-off win.

Wordekemper gave up two singles to start the ninth and was replaced by Josh Schmidt.  Harrisburg brought in Melvin Dorta to pinch-run for Brad Corley, who got the first of the two hits and was standing at second.

Nothing against Schmidt, who has been one of the Thunder’s better bullpen guys so far, but Steven Jackson being unavailable (most likely) after throwing three innings couldn’t have been comforting to Tony Franklin. 
Schmidt got two outs, but couldn’t get the third.  Miguel Perez singled home Jason Delaney for the walk-off win.  Had a feeling it would end that way.

Final Score: 4-3, Curve.

Post-Game Notes: Wordekemper hasn’t been as good as advertised, at least not yet.  He picked up the loss, and his ERA sits at a hearty 10.12 at the moment.

Matt Carson is now hitless in his last 12 at-bats.  Looks like that hot start has turned into a mini-slump.

Joe Muich threw out one of two attempted basestealers.

Jackson, Tabata, Curtis and Malec each had two hits.  Vechionacci’s 5-game hitting streak is over.

Thunder Thoughts: With the Thunder coming home tomorrow, please don’t forget that I’ll be back at the ballpark as well…I intend on covering the games on Thursday, Friday (unless I get Rangers-Devils tickets…in which case, you guys are on your own), Saturday and Sunday.  After that, I will likely go either Monday or Tuesday, but not both due to an Atlantic League commitment. 

If you have any specific things you want answered by any of the guys, or questions for myself, please pass them along in the comments or my inbox and I’ll do what I can.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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

Jennings: Whelan Out, Double-A Rotation Clearer

March 26, 2008

Since I’m stuck up in New Jersey, I’ve got to rely on various sources of information until the Thunder join me up here in about a week.

Another thing I can do is check out Chad Jennings SWB Yankees blog, and he’s got some information on there that’s relevant to Thunder fans.

Jennings confirms something I’d been hearing rumblings about lately — that Kevin Whelan’s sore shoulder won’t allow him to start the season in Trenton.  Not good news for Whelan, who got passed in the organization by a few guys last year who might have to convert from starters to relievers to have a better shot reaching the Bronx.

Jennings also wrote that Anthony Claggett is having a hamstring issue and won’t be ready to start the year, and that when he is ready, he’ll come out of the bullpen.  So, the Thunder rotation?

According to Jennings, it’s looking like Daniel McCutchen, Phil Coke, George Kontos, Jason Jones and Brett Smith.

I think everyone has come to the conclusion that McCutchen’s going to get the ball on April 3rd in Binghamton.  But the exact order after that seems to be unclear.  My guess is that you’d see some combo of Jones and Smith in the 2 and 3 slots, and some combo of Coke and Kontos in the 4 and 5 slots.  I could see Kontos as the 3, but we’ll see.

What would my rotation look like?  McCutchen – Jones – Kontos – Smith – Coke

Yours?

If nobody in the rotation is skipped, or if no other unforeseen issues occur, then the team’s #3 starter would start the home opener on April 10th against Harrisburg.  But Thunder fans will get to see the entire rotation, as the team is home for five more days after that.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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