Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thoughts On This Week's Round Of MiL Promotions

(Betcha didn't think I'd lead this post with a photo of Segedin.  Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio)

If you've read enough of my prospect-centric posts, you know by now that I'm pretty impatient when it comes to promotions.  I fully understand and respect how the organization manages their prospects and promotion plans, and I readily admit that they know what they're doing with these guys a helluva lot better than I do, but that still is never enough to calm my impatience when I see guys absolutely torching a certain level, a la Tyler Austin in Low-A this season.  In the same vein as my prospect rankings weighing heavily on consistent production at each level of the Minors, I always want to see a kid who's shown that he's mastered his current level get moved up ASAP so we can start seeing what he's got against better competition and if he can adjust and improve his game to perform and exceed at the next level.

With the MiL All Star Games in the rearview, the Yankees got around to promoting some of their bigger low-level position guys this week, most notably Austin, Gary Sanchez, and Mason Williams from Charleston to Tampa, and J.R. Murphy and Rob Segedin from Tampa to Trenton.  After the jump, check out my take on each guy's promotion and what I think it might mean for them moving forward.

Austin- It quickly became apparent this year that Austin was too good for Low-A.  The biggest thing he had to prove was that he was capable of being an everyday outfielder, and all reviews I've read of his defensive skills point to him sticking there long-term.  Now that he's been bumped up to face better pitching, I'm curious to see how Austin maintains his ability to be patient and take walks now that there won't be as many free ones handed out, and also what happens to his K rate.  I don't expect him to blow the doors off of High-A the way he did Low-A, and he's still a couple months away from turning 21, but if Austin can continue to hit for power and show a mature approach at the plate for the remainder of this season, I would have no issues with the Yankees getting aggressive with him and starting him at Double-A in 2013.

Sanchez- There really wasn't much for Sanchez to prove at Low-A this season either, and once he found his power swing it was only a matter of time before he got the bump up, J.R. Murphy be damned.  Sanchez's biggest question was also related to his defense, and like Austin he has gotten positive reviews this year and seems to have made progress in his receiving skills, pitch blocking ability, and arm strength.  With Sanchez now projecting as someone who can stay behind the plate and be a good catcher in the future, he's rapidly becoming a better prospect than Jesus Montero was, and I'm excited to see what he can do at the next level.  I expect there will be a learning curve, but by the end of this year I believe we'll see Sanchez start to tear up High-A pitching the same way he did Low-A last month.

Williams- Williams wasn't quite the sure thing that Austin or Sanchez was as a call-up option, but he's certainly flashed enough 5-tool skills and improved power this year to show he was capable of competing at the next level.  The Yankees are breaking their usually patient tradition with young position prospects by giving Williams the mid-season bump and I have to say I'm a fan of it.  Williams' strange combination of low BB rate (6.8%) and low K rate (10.6%) while still hitting over .300 was a sign that he wasn't being challenged by Low-A pitching.  Getting him up against a better level of pitchers will give a better idea of just how real his power surge is and where he stands in terms of being able to recognize pitches and work counts.  I'd also like to see him get some pointers of his base-stealing approach to improve his SB %.

Murphy- It's been a disappointing 2012 campaign for J.R., as it took him almost 2 full months to finally find his offense.  But based on his track record, and the fact that Sanchez was moving up to High-A, I think it made perfect sense to bump Murphy up to Double-A while he was on a hot streak.  The fact that he's seeing and hitting the ball well right now should help his transition to the Double-A game, and working with a more mature group of pitchers should provide a reliable update on where his defensive skill set currently stands.  As a top 10-15 prospect, it's just as important for Murphy to be able to catch every day as it is for Sanchez, and this promotion allows that to happen.

Segedin- This promotion was the most surprising to me that it took this long to happen, simply because Segedin is an older college hitter and had already racked up 500-600 PA at the Low-A and High-A levels.  Segedin has never been a flashy prospect, and he still won't be at Double-A, even if he is having a very good season, but how he handles himself at the plate and in the field at Double-A should start to create a more realistic projection for what type of player he can be at the Major League level.  Can he play a good enough corner outfield to stick as a full-time player?  If not, can he play a decent enough third base to be a utility bench option?  Can he hit for enough power to be a legitimate offensive threat?  We'll start to get answers to those questions now.

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