Posts Tagged ‘Phil Hughes’

Thunder Announce All 15 Year Team

April 7, 2008

C: Dioner Navarro

INF: Tony Clark, Robinson Cano, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Youkilis, Pork Chop Pough

OF: Kevin Thompson, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner

P: Phil Hughes, Justin Pope, Joba Chamberlain, Scott Patterson, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Ron Mahay, Corey Spencer, Jeff Suppan, Joe Hudson

Manager: Tony Franklin

We will continue our breakdown of the starting pitching, relief pitching and manager ballots shortly…let’s see if the fans made the right choices.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Alumni Sundays: Catching Up With Ian Kennedy…

April 6, 2008

Every Sunday, I’m going to try to have some quotes from a player from Thunder past.  Today, it’s Ian Kennedy…

I was fortunate enough to be in the Yankees clubhouse a few days ago, and I had a few goals in mind.  One was to stick around for Phil Hughes start — I’d never seen him pitch in the big leagues, and it takes me around three hours to get back home with the subway and trains and the drive home.

The second goal was to talk David Eckstein.  Eck may have the most impressive individual hardware of any Thunder alum — a World Series MVP trophy.

But the third was to speak to Ian Kennedy, and he was gracious enough to give me about five minutes of his time before Thursday’s game against Toronto.

TT – You may not have been in Trenton too long, but you’re probably one of the most well known and successful alums the team has ever had.  What has the ride been like for you since you left Trenton?

IK – “It’s been amazing.  It sounds cliche, but it’s like a dream come true.  You can’t write it up any better, within a full season, I’m here.  It’s everything you read about and you hear about.  The big leagues are awesome.”

TT – I remember when we talked last year you told me that you had just hoped to finish last season in Double-A.  The Yankees had a need for starting pitching, this is the last year of Yankee Stadium, it really seems like perfect timing for you…

IK – “Oh yeah, it couldn’t have gone any better.  Like I said earlier, I just hoped to be in Trenton.  Then I ended up in Scranton, then I ended up out here.  It’s been a really fun ride, and obviously it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

TT – Everybody talks about the so-called big three with you, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.  What’s it like to have those guys in here with you after coming up through the minors with them…

IK – “It’s great to get to hang out with these guys.  We’re all friends, and we’re all about the same age, so it makes it really fun.  But also, this whole clubhouse is really fun to be in.  You can tell just by being in here, it’s very lively.  And it helps having Joe (Girardi) and Dave Eiland out here too.”

TT – You mentioned Joe Girardi…was there any sort of adjustment for you from pitching under Joe Torre to Girardi, or were you not even really there long enough last year for there to even be an adjustment?

IK – “I wasn’t really here long enough to make that adjustment.  But you can tell there’s a little jumpstart.  Mike Mussina and our veterans, like Andy, they’re a little more peppy all the time.  So it’s been good.”

TT -Having guys like Mike and Andy around must be great…would you say there’s a particular pitcher that you’ve learned the most from while you’ve been up here?

IK – “I’ve probably learned quite a bit from Andy, even though he’s left-handed.  I feel like I can ask him anything.  Just with how to prepare is what I like to ask him.  With pitching and stuff, I haven’t really got to.  I’ve asked Mike too, but nothing really in-depth.”

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

Joba VS. Phil: Who Do YOU Pick?

March 10, 2008

Phil Hughes vs. Joba Chamberlain - Graphic by Mike Ashmore

You’re the manager of the New York Yankees.  It’s Game 7.  In the understatement of the year, you need this game.

Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are both on equal rest. 

Who do you give the ball to, and why?

Post your thoughts in the comments…

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

Phil-thy

March 10, 2008

Phil Hughes line from yesterday’s game against Minnesota: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K

The kid is for real, people.  It’s ridiculous to think Hughes is a sleeper for his breakout big league year — as somany people are predicting it by now — but if he surpassed Chien-Ming Wang as the team’s #1 starter this year, I wouldn’t at all be surprised.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

Hughes and Patterson are perfect

March 5, 2008

Phil Hughes and Scott Patterson were among four Yankees pitchers who combined on a rain-shortened perfect game yesterday.

They combined with Kei Igawa and Billy Traber to retire the first 15 Blue Jays batters they faced before the game was ultimately called before the start of the sixth inning.

Hughes retired all three batters he faced in the first inning, and was followed by Scott Patterson, who struck out one of three batters he faced in the second.

Kei Igawa (!!!) struck out two through two innings, and Billy Traber struck out the side to finish the game.

Here’s how other Thunder alums fared in the game…

Alberto Gonzalez: 0-2
Juan Miranda: 0-0, BB
Shelley Duncan: 2-2, R, 2B, RBI
Colin Curtis: 0-0
Melky Cabrera: 1-1, RBI
Justin Christian: 0-1

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

NY Post: Joba’s a Reliever

February 12, 2008

I have frequently disagreed with how the Yankees have handled Joba Chamberlain.  Regardless of the results, I still think they rushed him to the big leagues.  They took their time with Phil Hughes, and that seemed to work out relatively well for them…

Now, the New York Post is reporting that Chamberlain is set to start the season as a setup man to Mariano Rivera.  But he’s still going to prepare in Spring Training as a starter.  Then, after they eventually find someone to replace Chamberlain as setup man (the article mentions EL Pitcher of the Year and Thunder alum Alan Horne as a candidate), Joba will be sent to the minors to be stretched out and will return as a starter.

Does that not sound ridiculous to anyone else?  I get what they’re doing…they can say it’s to solidify the bullpen all they want, but it’s really to keep him under his innings cap for the year.  If he’s going to be a starter, keep him in the rotation.  If he’s going to be a bullpen guy, keep him there.  How long is it going to be before the “Joba Rules” become a thing of the past?

Not any time soon, apparently…

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