Attempting To Balance Rationality And Basic Baseball Logic With Rabid Yankee Homerism
Monday, November 26, 2012
2012 AB4AR Season Review: The Minor League Awards
I swear I'm not doing this on purpose. I know I've already promised that the 2012 Season Review series was over like 45 times by now, but it dawned on me this morning on my ride to the airport that while I managed to hand out all my end-of-season awards to the Major League team (and do it quite well, I might add), I neglected to dish out those same awards for the Minor Leagues. I guess subconsciously I didn't want to do the MiL awards because it was such a rough season for the Yankee system, but it wasn't all doom and gloom. A lot of less heralded guys put good years together, and the young A-ball core was dynamite across the board. So without further ado, and for realsies this is the final 2012 season review post, here are the AB4AR 2012 Minor League award winners.
Hit .320/.405/.598 (.442 wOBA) in 309 plate appearances at Low-A Charleston, followed that up with a .321/.385/.478 (.391 wOBA) in 148 PA at High-A Tampa, and then just for good measure went and scored a few runs and drove in another in a 2-game audition at Double-A Trenton. Austin hit 17 HR, scored 92 runs, drove in 80, stole 23 bases in 25 attempts, made a smooth transition to a full-time right field gig, and did all of that while missing a significant chunk of time with a concussion. He hardly missed a beat when he came back. Gary Sanchez still has the higher ceiling, but if you made the statement that Austin is the premiere hitting prospect in the system right now, it would be tough to argue against that.
While the crop of solid Triple-A arms disintegrated into injuries, trades, and stagnant performance, a few guys in the lower levels stepped up to get a little bit of spotlight shined on them. None did it better than Nik Turley, the big A-ball lefty and my TYA pick for sleeper prospect of the year going into the season. Turley pitched a new career high 117.0 innings, striking out 117 batters in the process and pitching to a 2.89/3.36 ERA/FIP slash. After being labeled a lower-level prospect due to a perceived lack of stuff, Turley dialed up the velocity and bite on his pitches this season, raising his ceiling and making him another sleeper candidate to break into the top 10 next season.
Ty Hensley flashed the stuff that had so many people excited about his potential when the Yankees drafted him, but he pitched so few outings and innings that it just wouldn't be fair to give him the award over a guy like Aune who basically played a full rookie league season after being picked in the 2nd round of this year's draft. Aune hit .273/.358/.410, flashing good patience (11.6% BB rate) and just enough pop (14 XBH out of 38) to make him a legit prospect. It's unknown if he can stick as a SS long-term, but he's got enough natural athleticism and baseball tools to find a permanent home somewhere on the diamond.
As if there was any other real candidate. Miley came into the season with a pretty cushy setup thanks to a stacked rotation. But he lost ManBan to injury, Betances to uselessness, David Phelps to the show, and D.J. Mitchell to the Mariners, leaving him with Adam Warren and a bunch of Major League retreads to fill out the rotation. He also played almost the entire season without his best position player, catcher Austin Romine, and still managed to lead the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees to an 84-60 record and another divisional title. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, he did it in a season where the team had no real home field and essentially played every game on the road. Miley won the International League Manager of the Year for the 2nd time and with very, VERY good reason.
It's taken a helluva long time, but it looks like DA is finally recovered from his gruesome ankle injury. In his first full season since 2009, Adams hit .306/.385/.450 in 86 games for Trenton with 8 HR, 48 RBI and solid K and BB rates. Adams also held up well in the field, to the point that the Yankees started experimenting with him at third base late in the season, and he continued to work that position and hit well in a solid stint in the AZFL. In a season defined by bad injury news, Adams' return to form was the most positive injury-related story.
After 4 years as a fringy-type IF prospect with limited power and questionable defensive skills, CoJo broke out in a big way in 2012, hitting both for average and power like he never had before and doing it at the highest levels of MiL competition. Joseph put up a .387 wOBA in Double-A, then followed it up with a .376 in almost 4 times as many PA in Triple-A. He hit 15 HR, stroked 29 doubles, posted new career best BB and K rates, and put himself firmly on the map as part of the Yankees' payroll management plans for 2013-2014 as a bench contributor and insurance policy for Robinson Cano.
In a way, it's not surprising to talk about Slade Heathcott having a good season because we all know what type of tools he has. But I, for one, was shocked at how well he played almost immediately after returning from the shoulder surgery that ended his 2011 season and how he was able to maintain that high level of production even though it was clear the shoulder was still bothering him. After hitting .307/.378/.470 in 243 High-A PA, Slade absolutely dominated the AZFL with a .499 wOBA and a continuous display of all 5 tools and balls-out playing style that makes him so exciting. He managed to stay healthy in spite of that over-aggressiveness and did big things for his prospect stock.
The only good thing you could say about Betances this season was that he at least pitched a healthy amount of innings (131.1). But in those innings he gave up 94 ER, 13 HR, 99 BB, and struggled so badly with his command that he was demoted to Double-A to finish out the season. After not faring much better there, despite fewer walks, Betances started making the transition to a reliever in the AZFL after the regular season ended, a last ditch effort by the Yankees to get some value out of what has become one of the most disappointing prospects in the entire system.
** Just a reminder, we're a little over a month away from the unveiling of the 2nd Annual AB4AR Top 30 Yankee Prospects list. Mark your calendars. **