Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Marquez’

4/10: Farm Fresh

April 10, 2008

I still want to do the “Farm Fresh” updates, but they clutter up the game threads too much.  So I’ve decided to do them separately.  If anyone would like to see this moved back to the game threads, speak now or forever hold your peace…

(AAA) Scranton – There appears to be a bit of Paramore syndrome going on with the Scranton starters.  First Jeff Marquez, and now Steven White have gotten Crushcrushcrushed.

Louisville stomped Scranton, 11-0, last night.  White was responsible for nine of the eleven tallies, although “only” six of them were earned.  His line: 4 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. 

Even Scott Patterson struggled, allowing two runs in two innings of relief.  He gave up three hits and walked two.  A very un-Scotty like outing.

Thunder alum Juan Miranda had the only multi-hit game for Scranton, going 2-for-4.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Shelley Duncan was sent down to Triple-A last night.  Chad Jennings points out that this presents a bit of a cluster-you-know-what (my words, not his) at the first base and outfield spots.  But if Jeter is really only unable to go for a few days, then Gonzalez will presumably come back down and Shelley can go back up.

Chad also has an update on Brett Gardner’s injury situation.

(A) Tampa – The T-Yanks lost, 8-4, to Dunedin last night.  Mike Dunn got the start, and struggled through his four innings, picking up the L after allowing three runs on six hits and three walks.  He did strike out five.

Damon Sublett DID play last night, going 1-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI.  Edwar Gonzalez had another nice game, going 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI.  He’s hitting .321 so far.

Tampa got the game to 5-3 after five innings, but the bullpen couldn’t keep them in it.  The large human, Grant Duff, gave up four earned in two and a third, and Stephen Artz allowed an unearned tally in the eighth.  Wilkins Arias came in for a scoreless ninth, but the damage had been done.

(A) Charleston – It was a camp day in Charleston today, with the ever-obnoxious 11:05 AM start.  But the RiverDogs battled through their eye-crusties and took their third straight game from Savannah by the score of 8-6.  Charleston is now 6-1 on the young season.

Jairo Heredia picked up his first win of the season, striking out six Sand Gnats through five innings of work. 

Charleston pounded out 16 hits, including a 4-for-5 night from Abe Almonte and a three-hit performance out of Justin Snyder.  However, Almonte was picked off once and caught stealing another time, although he did manage to swipe one bag on the night.

Jesus Montero, DH’ing with Austin Romine behind the plate, hit another home run and also doubled, raising his average to .345 on the year.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

2008 Baseball America Top 30 #11-15

March 25, 2008

The Thunder Thoughts breakdown of Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees Prospects for 2008 returns today with a look at prospects #11-15.  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.

#11 RHP Mark Melancon – Another selection with enormous potential but limited experience, Melancon did not pitch in 2007 due to Tommy John surgery in November 2006. At 23 years old, and only eight professional innings under his belt, this is a crucial year for Melancon. As a closer at the University of Arizona, he displayed an incredible level of competitive fire. His work ethic and fastball/curveball combo give the Yankees hope they can groom him into a closer-of-the-future, but keeping him healthy is the primary objective. If Melancon performs well early in the season, he could end up in Trenton some time during the summer.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Melancon and Jose Tabata are the two kids I can’t wait to see play this year.  But while Tabata will start the season with the Thunder, Melancon is ticketed for Tampa to start the year to avoid the cold weather up here at the start of the year.  So, perhaps as early as May, Melancon will get promoted to Double-A, barring any injury.  And for someone coming off of major surgery like he is, that’s not necessarily a given.A lot of people are projecting a Joba-esque meteoric rise through the system for Melancon, but as of right now, he’d seem to be blocked by more than a few pitchers currently vying for bullpen spots.

#12 RHP Humberto Sanchez – There was much more buzz about Sanchez a year ago. He was the most highly regarded prospect the Yankees received from Detroit in the Gary Sheffield trade. However, Sanchez never made it to the mound in 2007. He suffered forearm tightness in spring training and eventually would have Tommy John surgery and miss the season. He won’t be ready for game action until mid-season 2008. Sanchez had a live fastball and a nasty slider prior to the injury. He put great numbers at Erie (Double-A) and Toledo (Triple-A) in 2006. Will his conditioning and health allow him to get back to a high level at the end of 2008? We will wait and see.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Sanchez is another guy you could see in Trenton this year…in fact, I’ve heard it’s a very strong possibility.  As Steve mentioned, Sanchez had a lot of hype around him last year, but the fact is he’s yet to throw a meaningful pitch under the Yankees employ.  The Yankees will take it easy with Sanchez’s rehab schedule, but it will be interesting to see what effect his injuries have had on him.  One of the more electric pitchers in the league during his first stay with Erie, I wonder what kind of shape he’ll be in when he comes back…both his arm and his whole body.  Conditioning has always been an issue for Sanchez…and the Yankees have little tolerance for such issues regardless of your numbers, just ask Paul Thorp. 

#13 RHP Dellin Betances – Like Brackman, the sizeable Betances has as high a ceiling as any pitcher on this list. A New York native, the 6’7” Betances was taken in the eighth round of the 2006 draft. Unfortunately, he only threw 25 innings at Staten Island last season before being shutdown with forearm tightness. It is unclear whether or not he will need Tommy John surgery. Betances will turn 20 in mid- March and is still learning how to pitch and is still growing into his body. The Yankees are hopeful he won’t be shutdown with surgery in 2008, and will log more innings and continue to develop.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: Betances is probably a few years away from appearing in a Thunder uniform, and that’s something that could be delayed even longer if his injury problems continue to persist.  Betances quickly emerged as one of the most discussed prospects in the New York-Penn League last year, but the Yankees have received just 48 innings over a season and a half out of one of their brightest young stars.Phil Hughes, Brien Taylor, or somewhere inbetween?  Waaaaaaaaay too early to tell.

#14 RHP Daniel McCutchen – McCutchen, who exhibits a bulldog mentality on the mound, burst onto the Yankees’ radar in 2007. With a 50-game MLB suspension behind him from the previous year, he ranked second in the Minor League System with 14 combined wins between Tampa and Trenton with a 2.47 ERA. He won two post-season starts for the Thunder including the Eastern League Championship clincher against Akron. His fastball runs up to the plate in the low-mid 90s and has an excellent change-up as an out pitch. As with Marquez, McCutchen’s confident demeanor on and off the mound, makes him someone to keep your eye on going forward.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: There’s no doubt that McCutchen benefitted from last year’s experience in the Bronx after helping the Thunder win their first EL title.  No, he didn’t get into any games, but he was a part of a development program last September, joined by Alan Horne and Jeff Marquez.McCutchen is very likely to return to the Thunder as their Opening Day starter, and will probably be the first pitcher called up to Scranton if an opening pops up.  And if last season is any indication, an opening will pop up…

#15 RHP Kevin Whelan – Another prospect the Yankees acquired from the Detroit in the Gary Sheffield trade, Whelan had an uneven year in 2007. Coming off a 27- save season in Lakeland (High-A), he got off to a good start in Trenton. His splitter had Eastern League hitters completely baffled. Once mid-season hit, the Yankees decided to send him to Tampa and give him an opportunity to start. When Whelan returned to Trenton, his command deserted him. He ended up with 42 walks in 54 IP by season’s end in Trenton. The Yankees are still high on Whelan. A former catcher at Texas A&M, he is probably best suited to stay in the bullpen with his split-finger fastball.

Ashmore’s Thunder Thoughts: It was just an odd year for Whelan last year.  The decision to send him down to Tampa to start was somewhat puzzling, as was his return to the bullpen when he came back to Trenton.Whelan certainly had some things he needed to work on, as the numbers probably didn’t indicate just how much he was struggling.  Likely to start the year in the Scranton bullpen, it’s very possible Whelan could be back with the Thunder at some point as well…but that picture will be clearer when the Yankees determine just how many of the pitchers they sent back to minor league camp they’ll actually keep.

Ashmore Note: At one point or another, the hype machine has been working overtime on all five of these pitchers.  I know everyone loves to think that all these guys are going to pan out…but what are the odds that all five make the big leagues by 2010?

Click on the appropriate links for prospects #16-20, #21-25 and #26-30.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Trenton’s Big Three Sent Down, Other Notes…

March 10, 2008

The Yankees have their big three: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy.

But last season, Trenton’s talented trio of Jeff Marquez, Alan Horne and Chase Wright anchored the team’s rotation and led them to their first Eastern League championship in the team’s 14-year history. 

This year?  They all got a look in big league camp, and Peter Abraham reports that all three got sent down together.  All three appear likely to anchor another rotation, this time in Triple-A Scranton.  Maybe one of them will pitch an inning or two in the April 1st exhibition game…

Abraham also reports that Francisco Cervelli will be out 8-10 weeks.  8-10 weeks!  That would have him out until some point in May.  Not good for the Thunder fans hoping for their first big name catcher since Dioner Navarro.

If you’re a fan of checking out other team’s prospects, however, Baseball America has some good news for you.  BA’s top Toronto Blue Jays prospect, Travis Snider, appears to be headed straight to Double-A New Hampshire. 

“It’s almost completely decided that he’s going there,” Blue Jays farm director Dick Scott told the publication.

How will you know which guy to look for?  At 5′ 11″, 245 pounds, he’ll be the guy who looks like a house in a baseball uniform.

The BA Prospect Handbook says some scouts considered him the best hitter in the ’06 draft — he went 14th overall and signed for $1.7 million — and that he’s “extremely advanced for a young hitter.”

His career numbers are pretty mind-boggling.  In two seasons, he’s a career .316 hitter with 27 home runs and 134 RBI.  He won the Appalachian League MVP in his first pro season in 2006, too.

He can hit for average and for power?  Yikes.  Snider is certainly someone to keep an eye on when the Fisher Cats come to Waterfront Park on May 16th.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #9

February 29, 2008

Moment #9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
September 8, 2007
Portland, ME

In their first 13 seasons, the Trenton Thunder not only had never won a playoff series, they’d never had a 2-1 series lead.

With the first two games between Trenton and the Portland Sea Dogs at Waterfront Park split down the middle and making the series little more than a best-of-three, it was obvious that Game 3 at Portland’s Hadlock Field would be the turning point.

Daniel McCutchen got the nod in the pivotal third game for the Thunder, the first postseason start of his brief professional career.

“You have to take the same approach, even though it’s going to be a little more intense than a regular season game,” McCutchen said.

“I know (Portland) has some pretty good hitters, and we have a pretty good scouting report on them. I just have to pitch to my strengths, and go right at them.”

That’s exactly what the 24-year-old righty did, allowing only one run on three hits over six innings of work, leading the Thunder to a tight 3-2 victory and their elusive two games to one series lead.

The 30th ranked prospect in the Yankees system, according to Baseball America, McCutchen retired 11 straight batters at one point in the game.

With Jeff Marquez on the mound for Game 4 with the Thunder on the brink of advancing to the championship series for the first time in franchise history, there was little doubt that Trenton would break their 13-year curse.

The 15-game winner continued the domination of Thunder starting pitching in this series, combining with Eric Wordekemper and Justin Pope on a five-hit shutout. In fact, Thunder starters allowed just three earned runs over 26.2 innings pitched (1.02 ERA).

And just like that, the Trenton Thunder would be headed to the Eastern League Championship Series.

The first two games of the series, held in Trenton, seemed to be where the Thunder needed to make their mark. Chase Wright, who made two starts for the Yankees earlier this season, started the series opener, and Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Alan Horne was on the bump for the second game.

Wright outdueled top Boston prospect Justin Masterson in the first game, getting a little revenge against the Red Sox — who hit four straight home runs off of him in his last big league start.

“I’ve faced them a couple of times since I’ve been back, and they’ve roughed me up a little bit, so when I saw that I was going to get a rematch, it was nice to be able to go out there and beat them,” Wright said.

Masterson, drafted in the second round out of San Diego State just last year, looked like the inexperienced pitcher he is, having a difficult time locating his pitches in his five innings of work.

It was an assessment he didn’t necessarily agree with.

“I did exactly what I wanted to do,” said Masterson, who picked up the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits.

He also walked a batter, hit another, and threw a wild pitch.

“I actually felt pretty good out there. I gave up seven hits or something like that, but four or five of those never left the infield. Every hit was at least a ground ball, and that’s exactly what I want to do,” said Masterson, who got 10 of his 15 outs on the ground.

Noah Hall, who started the season with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League, found his way back into the starting lineup after a long stretch on the bench late in the season, and provided a key run scoring single in the win.

“It feels good,” Hall said.

“This season has really worked out well. Having done well in my short time playing, maybe I’ll get another opportunity next year.”

In Game 2, Horne and Sea Dogs knuckleballer Charlie Zink matched each other frame for frame, with the Thunder ace carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning, and Zink giving Portland seven strong innings of his own.

The contest lasted over four hours, with Portland scoring the eventual game-winning run on a wild play to give them the 3-2 win.

With two outs in the 13th Inning and a runner at first Base, Portland right fielder Jay Johnson singled to give the Sea Dogs runners on the corners. Andrew Pinckney then hit a ball off the glove of the diving first baseman, Cody Ehlers. The ball deflected back to the pitcher, Kevin Whelan, who flipped the ball back to Ehlers, who dropped it, allowing the runner on third to score.

The Thunder’s first playoff series victory helped get rid of the bitter taste left in the mouths of Trenton fans after the past two seasons, as they’d lost to the Sea Dogs in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.

What made that pill even more difficult to swallow was that Portland was the affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.  Even at the Double-A level, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is an intense and important one.  And this time, it would be the Yankees who’d come out on top.

Recapping the Top 20 so far…

#9 – Trenton finally beats Portland in the playoffs
#10 – Shelley Duncan’s Impact With The Yankees
#11 – The emergence of Austin Jackson
#12 – Tony Franklin named Thunder manager
#13 – Matt DeSalvo’s MLB debut
#14 – Phil Hughes rehab appearance
#15 – Tyler Clippard’s MLB debut
#16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
#17 – Chase Wright’s MLB debut
#18 – Chase Wright’s opening night start
#19 – Paul Lo Duca and Endy Chavez rehab in Trenton
#20 – Jeff Karstens rehab appearance

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

How Was The Yankees Offer Not Enough?

January 30, 2008

It’s been rumored in numerous places that the Yankees final offer for Johan Santana included Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and a prospect.  Some places say Jeff Marquez was involved, others say it was Marquez and another prospect — MLB.com reported that Mitch Hilligoss was in the deal at one point.

Whatever the deal was, how is any combination of that not enough?  It certainly isn’t that the Yankees are going down the tubes and needed Santana to survive, it’s far from that.  But what team couldn’t use Johan Santana?

But in any event, it’s widely believed that the Twins took a lesser offer from the Mets instead.  And I’d have to agree to an extent.

There isn’t one player in that deal that is definitively ready for a full season in the big leagues this year.  Humber and Gomez are the closest of the bunch, but Humber has yet to re-gain the lights out stuff he had before Tommy John surgery and Gomez didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first stint at the highest level, hitting just .232 in 125 at-bats.

But you can’t say either player is an absolute lock to play in the big leagues this year.  Best case scenario, Gomez sees some regular time in the outfield, and Humber ends up in the back end of your rotation.

Mulvey, who grew up a Mets fan, would be best suited to spend his 2008 season in Rochester, home of the Twins Triple-A affiliate.

And Guerra, who spent all season in High-A ball despite being just 18 years old, will likely throw the majority of his pitches in a New Britain Rock Cats uniform.

With what the Yankees were reportedly offering, the Twins would be getting two players who were definitively ready for Major League play right now.  Nobody who’s ever seen him pitch has any doubt as to what Phil Hughes is capable of, and he’s shown glimpses of that at the big league level so far.

As for Cabrera, he’s been a regular big leaguer for the past two seasons now, so there’s really no question he could have been an everyday guy in Minnesota.

Perhaps the issue with the deal, at least in the Twins eyes, was with the depth of it.  But Jeff Marquez is highly regarded in baseball circles, and has the numbers to prove it — after all, he did lead the Eastern League in wins with 15.  I’m not drinking the Jeff Marquez Kool-Aid just yet, but it’s hard to argue with what he’s accomplished so far.

As for Mitch Hilligoss, the scouting reports I’ve seen on the kid have all been impressive, and I think everyone knows about his lengthy hitting streak with Charleston last year.  You could easily see him in Trenton this year, no doubt about it.

So where was the issue with the New York Yankees offer?  And what possessed them to take the Mets deal?

Nobody knows how this deal will ultimately turn out, but for right now, it does look like the Twins got robbed.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Looking Back: The 2005 Top 30…

January 23, 2008

The 2004 post seemed to get a pretty decent reaction, so it’s time to continue the series and take a look at Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects from 2005.

It should be interesting to see how far these guys have progressed, or in some cases, how far they’ve fallen over the course of just three years.

1. Eric Duncan, 3B

The 2005 season was somewhat of a mixed bag for one Eric Anthony Duncan.  He hit a then career low .235 in his first season with the Thunder, but also hit 19 home runs and drove in 61 runs.  He also struck out 136 times in 451 at-bats, but has since improved that ratio. 

“If you succeed at the plate three out of ten times, you’re in the Hall of Fame,” Duncan told me in 2006.

“This game has so much failure in it, that you have to have confidence. If you don’t, you’re going to make it that much tougher for yourself. No matter where they put you, you have to trust yourself.”

Still, if you look at the names on this list and look at where Duncan’s career has gone since, it’s hard to believe he was on top of many of the players here.

2. Robinson Cano, 2B

This was the year where Cano established himself as the New York Yankees starting second baseman after a brief stay in Triple-A Columbus.

“For all the bad things you hear about baseball with the steroids and the black marks on the game, Robby Cano is what’s good about baseball,” Former Thunder manager Bill Masse said.

“He loves to have fun and he’s always got a smile on his face.”

As for Cano…

“I love Trenton,” Cano said during his 2006 rehab stay.

“I remember back in 2003 when I came here for my first game, it was in the second half. That’s something I’m always going to remember, my first day.”

3. Phil Hughes, P

This was a year before Hughes made his long awaited appearance in a Thunder uniform.  Johan Santana or not, it would seem to be a very poor choice if the Yankees decide to trade Hughes.

He has a career minor league ERA of 2.09.  That’s not a typo there.  He’s really got a 2.09 ERA in 275 innings with a .178 batting average against.

4. Steven White, P

Steven White / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

White didn’t exactly establish himself during the 2005 season, going 2-7 with a 6.44 ERA in 11 starts with the Thunder.  His .296 batting average against remains a career high.

5. Christian Garcia, P

Garcia, the Yankees third rounder in 2004, pitched pretty well in 2005.  He went 5-6 with a 3.91 ERA for Single-A Charleston, and was probably on pace to reach Double-A Trenton at some point last season.  However, he didn’t pitch at all last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

6. Marcos Vechionacci, INF

I finally got to see Vechionnaci for the first time during the 2007 Eastern League playoffs, and I think I’m a little higher on him than most people.  He might have developed a little more slowly than people might have expected, but the tools are definitely there with this kid, and the thought of a lineup with him, Jose Tabata and Austin Jackson is pretty amazing.

7. Melky Cabrera, OF

2005 was Cabrera’s only season in Waterfront Park, and the then 20-year-old hit .275 with 10 home runs and 60 RBI in 106 games.  He also made his Major League debut that season — on national TV against the Boston Red Sox, if I remember correctly — and will be a factor in the Yankees outfield mix this season.

8. Bronson Sardinha, 3B/OF

Sardinha spent his only full season with the Thunder in 2005, making the transition from third baseman to outfielder.  He actually had a pretty decent year, hitting .268, tying a career high with 12 home runs and setting a new career high for RBI with 68. This off-season, Sardinha brought his 20-letter middle name (Kiheimahanaomauiakeo) and .266 career average to the Seattle organization.

9. Chien-Ming Wang, P

Wang was one year removed from his final season with the Thunder, and would make his Major League debut in late April of 2005.  I was fortunate enough to be watching from the bleachers when he picked up his first big league victory against the Seattle Mariners.

It’s hard to argue with 38 wins in two seasons of work…

10. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez was a supplemental first rounder in the 2004 draft, and spent all of 2005 in Single-A Charleston.  He posted a 9-13 record with a 3.42 ERA and set a career high of 107 strikeouts that still stands.

11. Brett Smith, P

Smith’s 2007 season was documented in the last post, but his 2005 campaign was actually his first pro year.  He was the Yankees second rounder in 2004, and actually has a losing career record (22-28) and ERA over four (4.20).  If he could ever get his walk totals down (156 BB / 309 K) he might be able to develop the consistency that had him at #11 on this list just three years ago.

12. Rudy Guillen, OF

Chants of Rudy at Waterfront Park are now only reserved for the Thunder’s new Director of Broadcasting, Steve Rudenstein.  Guillen played the last month of the 2005 season in Trenton, and hit .257 in 109 at-bats.  As mentioned earlier though, he essentially fell apart the following year and converted to a pitcher in 2007.

13. Jesse Hoover, P

Hoover was once one of the hottest prospects in the Yankees system after tearing up the New York-Penn League to the tune of a 2-1 record and 1.78 ERA in 16 appearances.  But a back injury derailed his career until last season, where he pitched for the first time since his coming out party with Staten Island.  At 26, and with his level of experience to date, his window to get to the big leagues is rapidly closing, but he could be a candidate for Trenton if he can stay healthy.

14. Tim Battle, OF

Battle, who courageously fought off a form of bone cancer earlier in his career, took a nosedive the following season after hitting just .133 with Single-A Tampa in 128 at-bats before being sent back down to Charleston.  Last year, in a full year with Tampa, he hit a mere .218.

15. Matt DeSalvo, P

DeSalvo has to rank among one of my favorite people I’ve interviewed in my career, just because I never had any idea what the hell he was going to say next.  The best way I could describe him was the way I did in my 2006 feature on him that appeared in the Democrat…

Answers to questions will often involve questions of his own, or quotes from the increasingly long list of books he’s read that relate to what you’ve asked. Long, thoughtful pauses make talking with the 25-year-old feel more like a chess match than a conversation, with every move and every word carefully chosen.

16. Eduardo Sierra, P

This was the year Sierra was dealt from Trenton in mid-season.  He recently signed with the Oakland Athletics organization.

17. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard continued his rise through the system in 2005, leading the Florida State League in strikeouts with 169.  He would accomplish the same feat a season later in Mercer County.

18. Andy Phillips, 1B/3B

Phillips ended up playing parts of four seasons with the Yankees, hitting .253 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 479 at-bats.  This off-season, he inked a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

19. Abel Gomez, P

Gomez lasted one more year in the Yankees organization before the Phillies took a chance on him in 2007.  The same control problems that marked his time with the Yankees did him in there as well, as he posted a 29.08 ERA in four games against New York-Penn League competition.

He then became the latest in a long line of ex-Yankee prospects to head to independent baseball, but he bombed there as well, putting up an ERA of over 22 in four games with the Nashua Pride of the Can-Am League.

20. Jon Poterson, OF

Drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2004, Poterson couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag and lasted just three seasons in their system before ending up with the Chillicothe Paints of the independent Frontier League.

That assessment might sound a little harsh, but the guy hit .202 for the GCL Yanks in 2004, .173 in Charleston and .247 for Staten Island in 2005, and .167 and .163 for Charleston and Staten Island in 2006, respectively.  Things did not improve in 2007, where playing in one of the lower tiers of competition of independent ball, he hit just .231.

21. Sean Henn, P

Sean Henn / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2005)

This was the season where he was called up to the show right out of Trenton…

“I was going after guys, my confidence level was through the roof,” Henn told me this season.

“I felt like I was ready to go. I’d never pitched in the big leagues before, but once I got out here and looked at these Major League hitters and how to approach them in different ways, I saw that there was a lot I’d have to learn to be successful. Throwing offspeed pitches when you’re behind in the count, things like that. I felt I was ready, but I don’t know if I showed that.”

22. Scott Proctor, P

Proctor, who never appeared in a Thunder uniform, just signed a new deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

23. Ramon Ramirez, P

As was the case with Eduardo Sierra, this was the season where Ramirez’s stint in the Yankees organization came to an end.

24. Jason Jones, P

Jason Jones / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Jones is inexplicably an afterthought when people talk about some of the better arms in the system.  Granted, the numbers might not be there like they are for some of the true elite prospects, but it seems like he’s always been the sixth starter or the guy who’s always taking one for the team if the rotation needs tweaking.  I honestly think he’d better off in another organization, one with significantly less pitching depth.

25. Kevin Thompson, OF

Kevin Thompson / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2004)

One of the more exciting players in Thunder history, his 101 stolen bases in a Trenton uniform were a franchise record for a little while until it was broken by Justin Christian.  Oddly enough, the emergence of Christian and Brett Gardner may have been what led to Thompson being deemed expendable.

26. Ben Julianel, P

Julianel set a career high with 106 strikeouts in 2005 with Trenton.

27. Mario Holmann, 2B

Holmann was released by the Yankees last season after failing to get past Single-A Tampa, which was partially based on an inability to hit for any power whatsoever.  But when his average sank to .179 last season, he became expendable and hasn’t resurfaced anywhere since.

28. Hector Made, SS

Looks like he made it?  Not quite.  Made spent another year in the Yankees system before being dealt to Philly.

29. Omir Santos, C

Pito will be in the Orioles organization for 2008, after spending seven years with the Yankees.  He played his first of parts of three seasons with the Thunder in 2005, setting a career high with 10 home runs.

30. Maximo Nelson, P

Nelson never pitched on American soil for the Yankees, and played in the Israel Baseball League in 2007.  He was reportedly clocked at 96 miles per hour during the IBL All-Star Game.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Best of 2007: Moment #16

January 22, 2008

Brett Smith / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Moment #16 – Brett Smith’s no-hitter
July 4, 2007
Trenton, NJ

It’s incredible when you think of just how far Brett Smith fell after throwing the first no-hitter by a Thunder pitcher in the history of Waterfront Park.

You would have thought he would have followed the path that Alan Horne or Jeff Marquez did based on what he did early in the season, but his season fell apart after he was somewhat unexpectedly sent down just two games after his Independence Day no-no.

Smith started the season on fire, leaving after seven innings with a no-hitter intact on April 21st against the Binghamton Mets…which at the time was the most impressive performance I’d seen by a Thunder pitcher since Tyler Clippard had taken a perfect game into the 7th inning in 2006.

After that, he had two consecutive starts where he allowed one hit over eight innings of work in the month of May.

But even during his no-hitter, Smith struggled with his control late in his stay with the Thunder, walking a mind-boggling seven during the five innings of the rain-shortened contest.

He made just one more start for Trenton, but was pulled after just three and two thirds innings.  After that, he made a brief appearance out of the bullpen, but faced eight batters in one inning of work.

Smith was then sent down to Single-A Tampa, where he more or less imploded.  He went 0-6 in eight starts, and his ERA was a robust 7.68.  He had more walks than strikeouts, and had at least two free passes in every start.

In a farm system absolutely overflowing with pitching prospects, Smith had a year he couldn’t afford to have, and may have fallen off the prospect map.  It’ll take a huge 2008 to re-gain his status as someone to keep an eye on, and it’s a season that will likely see him return to Mercer County.

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

Best of 2007: Moment #20

January 4, 2008

Jeff Karstens / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

Moment #20 – Jeff Karstens Rehab Appearance
July 17, 2007
Trenton, NJ

Moment #20 takes us to Waterfront Park in Trenton, where pitcher Jeff Karstens made his one and only rehab appearance with the club against the Binghamton Mets.  While it was overshadowed by Phil Hughes, who had appeared four days earlier and would make his final start one day later, Karstens pitched well, allowing one run on four hits in five innings for the win.

Only a small media contingent showed up to see his latest stop on the comeback trail from a broken leg that derailed one of the more surprising Thunder-related success stories of 2007.

A line drive off the bat of Julio Lugo on April 28th fractured the fibula of the Thunder alum, who spent all of 2005 with the team and part of 2006.  The 19th round pick put up some pretty pedestrian numbers in his first season with the ballclub, going 12-11 with a 4.15 ERA in 169 innings pitched, but established himself as a legitimate prospect in 2006 after a 6-0 run with the Thunder after being sent down from Triple-A Columbus early in the season.

Karstens pitched well in limited action for the Yankees in 2006 after being called up in late August, and entered the 2007 season as a member of the starting rotation in the big leagues after a so-so showing in Spring Training.

But a season that started with so much promise never really got back on track, at least at the big league level, with Karstens allowing 11 earned runs in 10.1 innings in the five games he appeared in after eventually returning from the injury after a few starts in Triple-A Scranton.

But even with a rough first inning and sitting through a brief rain delay, you’d have never predicted Karstens would have faltered after seeing him on that gloomy mid-summer day.

“My body felt good for the most part,” Karstens said at the time.

“I didn’t throw as good as I thought I could, I was kind of off on a few fastballs and changeups, but it got better towards the end.”

Karstens was also impressed with Thunder pitching coach Scott Aldred, who will be returning to the team this year.

“He’s been good, he’s got a lot of insight on a lot of things,” he said.

“All pitching coaches are different, you’ve just got to take certain things from all of them and just go from there.”

Where does Karstens go from his 2007 season?  It would seem highly likely that he’ll be starting the year in Scranton, as so many pitchers seemed to pass him in the organization.  Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and possibly even Daniel McCutchen all whizzed by Karstens on the depth chart and unless the Yankees think he can help their bullpen, it seems hard to believe that he’ll get a chance as good as the one he had at the start of 2007.

Right now, he’s probably on par with Steven White and Darrell Rasner, although a strong showing in the Baseball World Cup might have buoyed his stock in the organization, if only slightly.

However, considering Tyler Clippard was sent all the way down to Double-A after making his big league debut earlier in ’07, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility to see Karstens make a cameo in Trenton as well…but if things ever reached that point, the Yankees might be better off following the path they did with Clippard and try to get a quality prospect in return for him.

Needless to say, this is a make or break year — pardon the pun — for Karstens.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com