Posts Tagged ‘Jose Tabata’

Tabata: Hand Sometimes Bothers Him

April 25, 2008

Some rather unexpected news out of Jose Tabata in the Thunder clubhouse last night. 

I asked Tabata a few questions through the help of infielder and unofficial team interpreter Carlos Mendoza…can’t really do quotes, but I’ll tell you what Mendoza told me Tabata said…

“He said sometimes it bothers him, probably because of the cold, he said.  But other than that, he’s fine right now, he feels good.”

I asked Thunder skipper Tony Franklin about Tabata’s hand before the game, and he said it was a non-issue.

“I think everything’s going to be fine,” he said.

“We’re all human, and I just think we all look for things to point to when things aren’t going well.  I think he’s fine, and I think he’s going to continue to be fine.  I don’t think the hand is an issue with him, no.”

I’m not trying to make a mountain out of a molehill by any means, but I haven’t heard Tabata say anything about his hand all season until now.  Could be something to keep an eye on down the road.

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

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

Looking Back: The 2007 Top 30…

January 31, 2008

OK, so we’re obviously not looking that far back here.  Today, I’ll be taking a look back at Baseball America’s Top 30 Prospects from the 2007 season.  Apparently, it wasn’t a bad year to be in the Yankees farm system, as this seemed to be the first season where…gasp, they actually gave their minor leaguers a legitimate opportunity.  In fact, six of the 30 players on this list made their big league debuts with the Yankees last year.

Make sure you also check out my looks back from the 2004, 2005 and 2006 lists.

1. Phil Hughes, P

Anyone wondering how highly regarded Hughes was before the start of the 2007 season needed to only look at the cover of the Prospect Handbook.  Hughes’ picture, taken by Thunder team photographer Dave Schofield, graced the front of the annual publication.

Hughes made his highly anticipated MLB debut about a month into the season, and had a no-hitter going deep into his second game before injuring his hamstring.  That and a subsequent ankle injury derailed his season for a few months, but after a few rehab appearances back in Waterfront Park, Hughes was good as new and ready to show the world what he can do for 2008.

And, on a side note, he really is as good of a guy as he seems.  Always incredibly giving of his time, not only during the 2006 season with Trenton, but also in the Yankees clubhouse as well. 

2. Jose Tabata, OF

Tabata did very little to hurt himself last season, spending all of last year in the Florida State League with Tampa.  He hit .307 with 5 home runs and 54 RBI, and helped lead the team to an impressive 83-56 record.

However, he still hasn’t developed a lot of power, and only had 23 extra-base hits last season.  One of the more intriguing stories of 2008 might just be Tabata’s adjustment to Eastern League pitching, and if he can increase both his home run and walk totals.

3. Humberto Sanchez, P

With the Yankees being shut out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes, some people might forget that they were victorious in the “getting rid of their aging outfielder for prospects” contest last season.  Sanchez was the key player in the Gary Sheffield deal that sent him to the Yankees along with Kevin Whelan and the essentially forgotten Anthony Claggett.

The problem with all that is that Sanchez hasn’t thrown a single pitch for the Yankees on any level, out for all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  During the parts of three seasons he spent on the hill for the Erie Seawolves, he’s never faced the Trenton Thunder.  However, it’s very possible that his rehab tour will take him to Waterfront Park at some point in 2008.

4. Dellin Betances, P

Betances is listed anywhere between 6′ 7″ and 6′ 9″, but the more important numbers would involve how many starts he’s made over the past two seasons: 13.

The lanky New York native made just six appearances last season for Staten Island, battling a forearm injury that shelved him for the majority of the year.  He’s been impressive when he’s been out there, but he needs to be healthy for all of 2008 to shake any sort of “injury prone” label.

5. Joba Chamberlain, P

What else is there to say about Joba Chamberlain?  He sailed through three levels of the minors, Trenton included, to make a huge impact on the Yankees out of the bullpen following his early August call-up.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t even hear himself get drafted.

“I stopped watching the draft in the middle of the first round,” Chamberlain told me in June.

“I started playing with my son upstairs, but then I got a bunch of calls from my teammates and friends saying that I’d been picked at 41 by the Yankees. It couldn’t have happened with a better organization, so I was pretty lucky to get picked there.”

The same enthusiasm that endeared him to fans in the Bronx was also very evident even in Trenton.

“I’m going to give you 110 percent every time I go out there,” he said.

“I’m going to be excited out there, I’m going to show emotion out there. I want to keep my teammates involved and keep everyone in the game.”

I wrote a column about a week before his big league call-up saying how the Yankees were rushing him, and how people were expecting too much out of him and so on. I obviously now look like an idiot.

6. Ian Kennedy, P

Ian Kennedy / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Kennedy was another pitcher who sailed through the various levels of the minors relatively quickly.  He made the same three stops Chamberlain did — Tampa, Trenton and Scranton — but he stayed in each a little longer.

He goes after hitters with a repertoire that includes a fastball that sat at 88 MPH in his Thunder debut, a sinking changeup, a slider and a curveball.

“I command my pitches a lot like (Tyler) Clippard does, that’s who a lot of people compare me to,” Kennedy told me in June.

But Kennedy rocketed past Clippard in the system, to the point where Clippard was sent down to Trenton to make room for Kennedy, who was on his way up to Scranton.

7. Tyler Clippard, P

Clippard told me in September that he felt like his 2007 season was a mixed bag, and it’s hard to argue with that assessment.  Sure, he made his Major League debut and ended up going 3-1 in six starts for the Yankees, but he also went all the way back down to Trenton and didn’t really pitch all that well in the process.

Following the season, he was shipped to the Nationals for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo, and many people think he could figure prominently in the mix for a spot in Washington’s starting rotation.

8. J. Brent Cox, P

Like Humberto Sanchez, Cox has not pitched since late in the 2006 season.  But what might be more frustrating than anything else for the Yankees is that the former Texas Longhorn actually injured himself pitching for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which they perhaps foolishly allowed him to pitch in during the Thunder’s 2006 playoff push.

What’s worse is that Cox was well on his way to becoming a prime candidate for the Yankees bullpen at some point in 2007, but instead finds himself thrown into a category with other rehabbing Bronx prospects.

9. Kevin Whelan, P

Kevin Whelan / Photo by Mike Ashmore

At the start of the season, Whelan was the highest ranked Yankees prospect in Trenton.  Accordingly, I made him the subject of one of my first features.  I’d post the audio if it weren’t for the numerous f-bombs I dropped in it, but Whelan very narrowly avoided injury during our first chat in the home dugout, thanks to a stray BP ball that rocketed off the dugout wall between both of our heads.

That was an odd situation, and it was an odd year for Whelan.  The numbers look good, but his walk totals were a bit of a concern, and he was inexplicably sent down to Tampa to start in the middle of the year before being sent back up as a reliever.

10. Brett Gardner, OF

Gardner spent the first half of 2007 in Trenton, hitting .300 in 54 games with the Thunder.  However, the power that everyone hoped he’d develop didn’t appear, and he didn’t hit a single home run and drove in just 17 runs.  Since his five home runs with Staten Island in 2005, he’s hit just one since.

11. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B

Vechionacci was called up to Trenton just in time for the postseason, and he hit .242 with two RBI in eight postseason contests.  He spent the majority of the season in Tampa, however, where he hit .266 with two home runs and 39 RBI.

12. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez did a lot to improve his status in the Yankees organization in 2007, posting a league leading 15 wins while with the Trenton Thunder.  It looks like he’ll be joining the Scranton rotation for 2008, and could be a candidate to make the jump to the Bronx at some point in the year.

13. Eric Duncan, 1B/3B

Duncan hasn’t excelled as people hoped he might, struggling for a good part of last season with the Triple-A Scranton Yankees.  He hit .241 with 11 home runs 61 RBI in 111 games, although he did continue his trend of keeping his strikeout totals much lower than the career high of 136 he set while with the Thunder in 2005.

14. Chris Garcia, P

Garcia did not pitch in 2007 due to an injury suffered while in the Hawaii Winter League.  Once compared to Phil Hughes, Garcia now needs a big 2008 to even be in the same conversation with some of the less prominent pitchers in this list.

15. Mark Melancon, P

Melancon also blew out his elbow in Hawaii, and didn’t pitch either in 2007.  So let me get this straight…Sanchez, Cox, Garcia and Melancon all didn’t pitch last season, and Betances only lasted for six games?  Yikes.

16. Alan Horne, P

Horne was probably the most consistent Thunder pitcher last season, dominating Eastern League batters to the tune of a 12-4 record, 3.11 ERA and league leading 165 strikeouts.  However, there are widespread concerns and rumblings about his control, and he still has to prove himself to some of those people while in Scranton this year.

17. Angel Reyes, P

44 walks compared to 49 strikeouts last year?  Uh-oh.  Reyes appeared in 16 games at three different stops last season, and the 20-year-old southpaw wasn’t particularly impressive at any of them. 

18. Austin Jackson, OF

The numbers — .200, 0 HR, 4 RBI — don’t necessarily tell the true impact that Austin Jackson had on the Trenton Thunder’s postseason run.  He made several impressive and clutch throws that showed why this guy is considered to be one of the best, if not the best athlete in the entire system.

19. Chase Wright, P

Outside of the getting traded part, you could pretty much write the same paragraph about Chase Wright as the one above about Tyler Clippard.  Wright received national attention in his second big league start after getting rocked by the Red Sox for four consecutive home runs.  But that was after he made an impressive jump to the Yankees right from Trenton, a place he would unfortunately be sent back down to after the Yankees needed to make room for Kennedy and Chamberlain in Scranton.

20. George Kontos, P

Kontos has been picking up a lot of steam as someone to keep an eye on in the Yankees farm system as of late, and may be one of the more polarizing pitchers in the organization.  With Tampa in 2007, he went 4-6 with a 4.02 ERA.  His 15 home runs allowed were the fourth highest in the FSL last year as well.

21. Jesus Montero, C

After an overall lack of catching depth in the system for the past few years, it seems the Yankees have made great strides in that department with both Francisco Cervelli and Montero.  Just 18 years old, he made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, hitting .280 with three home runs and 19 RBI.

22. Steven White, P

In a year where it seemed like everyone was getting a shot in the Yankees starting rotation, Steven White’s 6-4 record and 3.34 ERA apparently weren’t good enough.  He doesn’t have outstanding stuff, but he deserved a shot in the show just as much as nearly anyone else who got one last year did.

23. T.J. Beam, P

After struggling in an extended look in the big leagues in 2006, Beam spent all of 2007 in Triple-A Scranton.  He did all right, but also did little to distinguish himself from the other relievers in the system.  He’s since signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

24. Zach McAllister, P

Zach McAllister / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007) / Taken in Brooklyn, NY

McAllister went 4-6 with a 5.17 ERA in 16 appearances for Staten Island of the New York-Penn League last season.  I was fortunate enough to see one of his starts in Brooklyn, and it seemed to be a microcosm of his season.  The numbers were pretty good, and I thought he showed some flashes of what he could do, but it was a pretty inconsistent start.

25. Colin Curtis, OF

If I were to entirely base my assessment of Curtis on games I saw him play last year, it might not be so great.  After all, he was 9-for-58 in games I covered.  But his overall numbers were solid, and I saw enough to where I’ll give him a pass.  I think that with a full year in Trenton and some experience against Double-A pitching, he could be somewhat of a sleeper this year.

26. Jeff Karstens, P

Karstens has become somewhat of an afterthought in the system.  He ended up in the Yankees rotation early last season, but broke his leg and never really factored in the discussion after that.

27. Josue Calzado, OF

Calzado hit .271 with nine home runs and 55 RBI at Single-A Charleston last year, showing his first real consistent burst of power.

28. Bronson Sardinha, OF

Seriously, Sardinha must have set some sort of record for most years spent in the Prospect Handbook with the same organization.

29. Tim Norton, P

Norton came out of nowhere to light up the NYPL with Staten Island in 2006, but lasted all of five starts with Charleston in 2007 before going down with a shoulder injury.  Any pitcher in this system simply cannot afford an injury, but a guy who turns 25 in May that the team has very little money in has even less margin for error.

30. Daniel McCutchen, P

Daniel McCutchen / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Do you remember when the only time people talked about Tyler Clippard, it was to discuss him being kicked off his high school team for a drinking and driving incident?  Well, there was also a time when McCutchen was known as the guy who tested positive for ephedra in 2006.

His 2007 season went a long way towards him removing that label, and the Yankees agreed, going as far as to include him as a part of their developmental program at Yankee Stadium. 

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Looking Back: The 2006 Top 30…

January 27, 2008

With Baseball America’s 2008 Prospect Handbook starting to arrive in mailboxes, it’s time to continue our series of looking back at the Yankees top prospects from years past and go back just two years ago.

This is a look at the publication’s 30 best Yankees prospects from 2006…

1. Phil Hughes, P

With Hughes, the Yankees finally had a prospect who lived up to the hype.  But he did a lot more than that, he actually managed to exceed the expectations that were had of him going into the 2006 season.  Hughes was just 19 when he arrived at Waterfront Park, and quickly became one of the most talked about prospects in the entire country.  The first time we spoke, which was a day before his Double-A debut, he had yet to even visit Yankee Stadium, no less pitch there.

It’s amazing just how quickly this kid shot through the system…

2. Eric Duncan, 3B/1B

Eric Duncan / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

After leading the Eastern League in home runs with 34, Shelley Duncan was nowhere to be found on this list in 2006.  Meanwhile, Eric found himself as the second best prospect.  I’m not at all insinuating Shelley should have ever been rated higher than Eric…but it was always interesting to me to see how these guys paths crossed.

3. Jose Tabata, OF

Tabata looks to make his Double-A debut this season, very likely breaking camp with the team in April.  The guy is a career .305 hitter over three seasons of work, so there’s a lot of excitement in Trenton about the possibility of seeing this kid — and he is just as a kid at 19 — in a Thunder uniform.

4. C.J. Henry, SS

One of the centerpieces of the Bobby Abreu trade, Henry hit an astonishing .184 in 102 games with Single-A Lakewood and has since made his way back to the Yankees organization.  Once the fourth best prospect, he’s now completely and entirely off the radar.

5. Austin Jackson, OF

He was drafted out of high school in 2005, and quickly established himself as one of the better prospects in the Yankees organization.  After last year’s impressive performance over multiple levels, he now appears to be one of the elite prospects in the farm system.

6. Eduardo Nunez, SS

Nunez made 40 errors in 2006 and 33 last season.  He’s a career .245 hitter with below average power and decent, but certainly not blazing speed.  At just 20 years old, he still has time to develop and improve.

7. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B/SS

Vechionacci was once one of the more exciting prospects in the entire organization, but has stock has fallen dramatically.  This season could be make or break for him, and it looks like it’ll happen at Waterfront Park.

8. Christian Garcia, P

Garcia pitched just 12 games in 2006, and was shut down entirely in 2007.  With his injuries and the glut of quality starters in the organization, he’s become an afterthought.

9. Jeff Marquez, P

Marquez spent all of 2006 in Tampa, and posted another solid, but somewhat unspectacular season.  He went 7-5 with a 3.61 ERA, striking out 82 and walking just 29 over 92.1 innings of work.  After a season in Trenton, Marquez will now be competing for a spot in a very crowded Triple-A rotation.

10. Tyler Clippard, P

I should ask Clip to sponsor this blog for as much as his name comes up in it.  2006 was such a mixed bag for him, but his year end numbers don’t really indicate that.  His ERA was as high as 5.69 in mid-June, and it looked like he could potentially be a candidate to get sent back down to Tampa.  Instead, he put together a remarkable second half that saw him win 10 of his last 11 decisions and lower his ERA by more than two runs.

11. J. Brent Cox, P

Cox hasn’t pitched in a game since being allowed to leave to pitch for Team USA in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament towards the end of 2006.  Some writers were talking about Cox being a potential replacement for Mariano Rivera at the time.  I asked him about this in August of 2006…

“At this point, it’s too early,” Cox said. “(The Yankees) haven’t really talked about my plans for me, but I trust them with what they want to do with me, and I’ll just go along with it.”

12. Tim Battle, OF

His last name is an appropriate one, because it’s been just that — a battle — for him to maintain his status as a prospect in the Yankees organization.  It will be very interesting to see where he ends up come Opening Day, as some people are projecting him to crack Trenton’s roster.

13. Brett Gardner, OF

Gardner made his Thunder debut in 2006, joining the team in the middle of June after hitting .323 and stealing 30 bases in the Florida State League.  He swiped 28 more bags for Trenton, setting a new career high with 58 in a season.

14. Steven White, P

White started the 2006 season in Trenton and did a lot to re-establish himself as one of the better arms in system, posting a 4-1 record with 2.11 ERA in 11 starts before being called up to Triple-A Columbus for good in June.

15. Melky Cabrera, OF

The Melkman shed his prospect tag in 2006, but in the best way possible.  After hitting a torrid .385 in Columbus, the Yankees almost had no choice but to call him up.  He’s stuck in the big leagues ever since.

16. Matt DeSalvo, P

Matt DeSalvo / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2006)

I absolutely, positively wrote off Matt DeSalvo after his 2006 season.  I don’t think the numbers (5-4, 5.77) for Trenton really tell the tale of how disappointing and inconsistent he was. 

“Matt DeSalvo’s had a bad year,” Yankees Special Advisor Reggie Jackson told me during his annual visit.

“He’s had some off the field issues that we believe he’s got straightened out. Every year isn’t a great year, but the organization still loves him and is behind him.”

And while that wasn’t entirely true, as DeSalvo was taken off the 40-man roster, he did rebound in 2007 and make his Major League debut.

17. Alan Horne, P

Horne was still an enigma at this point, having yet to throw a pitch in professional baseball.  Now, he’s considered to have a great chance at cracking the Yankees roster at some point in 2008.

18. Sean Henn, P

Henn might be better suited to be pitch in an organization that will allow him to start, because the Yankees attempt to convert him to a reliever certainly hasn’t panned out.

19. Kevin Howard, 2B/3B

I never understood the fascination with this guy.  Maybe it was that he went to Miami, I don’t know.  He bounced around the Dodgers and Phillies organizations last year, and put up some better numbers in Double-A Jacksonville after going back to his natural position of second base. 

20. Matt Smith, P

Smith had a real solid 2006 season while under the Yankees umbrella, allowing just six earned runs in 24 relief appearances in Triple-A.  He one-upped himself upon going to the Bronx, stringing together 12 straight scoreless appearances.

21. Justin Christian, 2B/OF

Justin Christian / Photo by Mike Ashmore

Those who know my opinion of Brett Gardner might be surprised to know that I don’t necessarily feel the same way about Justin Christian.  Gardner may have it, but I think Christian really used his ability to single-handedly change the game with his speed while with Trenton.  His inability to handle any of the infield positions well will really hurt him, but I do think there’s a place in the big leagues for Justin Christian.

22. Bronson Sardinha, OF

Sardinha spent most of 2006 in Trenton, hitting .254 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI.  He was called up to Triple-A in mid-July and finished the year there.

23. Kevin Thompson, OF

Thompson made his big league debut in 2006, hitting .300 in 30 MLB at-bats for the Yankees.

24. T.J. Beam, P

Although he could never quite translate his Double-A success to the big leagues, Beam had to be one of the more impressive relievers in Thunder history.  In 18 games, he was 4-0 with a microscopic ERA of 0.86.

25. Garrett Patterson, P

Patterson walked 37 and struck out 39 in 50 innings with Single-A Charleston in 2006, not exactly helping his case to climb the prospect ladder.

26. Andy Phillips, 1B/3B

Phillips had his longest stay yet in the big leagues in 2006, spending the entire year with the Yankees and playing in a career high 110 games.

27. Rudy Guillen, OF

Guillen dropped 15 spots from his #12 ranking in 2005.  After hitting .173 for the Thunder in 2006, he fell off the map all together.

28. Kevin Reese, OF

Reese got some time in the show in 2006, driving in the only Major League run of his career in 12 at-bats.

29. Jason Stephens, P

Stephens appeared in only eight games in 2006, going 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA at Single-A Charleston.

30. Jeff Karstens, P

Karstens got his career back on track in Trenton in 2006, going 6-0 with a 2.31 ERA in 11 starts after being sent down from Triple-A Columbus.  He made his Major League debut in late August of that year, and established himself as a contender for the Yankees starting rotation in 2007.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Breaking News: Yankees Spring Invite List

January 15, 2008

Just got this list of non-roster players the Yankees have invited to Spring Training…

C Kyle Anson, C Jason Brown, INF Bernie Castro, OF Justin Christian, OF Colin Curtis, INF Eric Duncan, OF Brett Gardner, RHP Daniel Giese, INF Nick Green, RHP Alan Horne, OF Austin Jackson, RHP Steven Jackson, OF Jason Lane, RHP Daniel McCutchen, RHP Mark Melancon, C Jesus Montero, LHP Heath Phillips, C P.J. Pilittere, OF Greg Porter, INF Cody Ransom, RHP Darrell Rasner, C Austin Romine, RHP Scott Strickland, OF Jose Tabata, LHP Billy Traber and INF Marcos Vechionacci.

If my math is correct, 11 Thunder alums are on the list — Brown, Christian, Curtis, Duncan, Gardner, Horne, A. Jackson, S. Jackson, McCutchen, Pilittere and Vechionacci.

It’s interesting to me that Kyle Anson got an invite.  Although Anson has only played at low-A Charleston last season, he’ll turn 25 a few weeks into the 2008 season, so it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that he could be a candidate to catch in Trenton if the Yankees don’t think Francisco Cervelli is ready for the jump — although that seems like a very unlikely scenario.

I also wonder if this is Eric Duncan’s last chance to make an impact when it matters.  I think the fact that he was unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and went unclaimed speaks volumes as to how far he’s plummeted in baseball circles.

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