Saturday, June 30, 2012

Monthly Minor League Report (June): The Lower Levels

(I wonder if he'll get a call up or not.  Used courtesy of

Another month of Minor League baseball is in the books, which means it's time to go back and look at how that month went.  With the Major League trading deadline looming in the distance and the Yankees suffereing through some more injury hardships, this could be the last time of these young players get mentioned as part of the Yankee organization.  And with the start of Short Season leagues taking place in June, there are 2 more teams to follow.

Rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees: 10-1 Record, 1st in Division

The GCL team is always an interesting mix of higher level guys starting rehab assignments and fresh faces right out of various amateur leagues or college getting their first taste of pro ball, and this season is no different.  The pitching staff has already seen David Aardsma, Jeremy Bleich, and Graham Stoneburner pitch as their first step towards getting back to their spots in other staffs, and there aren't a lot of other high-profile names amongst the ranks here.  2 of the regulars who have stood out are Jordan Cote, who has given up just 3 ER and 2 BB with 13 Ks over 14.0 innings of long relief, and Rony Bautista, who hasn't allowed an earned run and has struck out 10 in 6.2 IP.

At the plate, the biggest name was another rehab candidate, top 10 organizational prospect Slade Heathcott.  Heathcott hit .235/.353/.409 in 22 DH plate appearances before jumping back up to High-A Tampa, but there have been a couple of regulars who have impressed early.  2B Jerison Lopez (1.090 OPS, 6 2B, 6 BB in 44 PA), 1B Bubba Jones (6 2B), and OF Ericson Leonora (.324/.425/.559, 2 HR, 10 RBI) have all hit well; Still waiting to see some production from Greg Bird and Kelvin Duran, and 2012 pick Austin Aune and the injured Yeicok Calderon are also worth watching.

Short Season Staten Island: 4-8 Record, Tied for 3rd in Division

In a perfect world, this is where Rafael DePaula would be pitching, but the Yankees aren't trying to rush him and instead he's pitching in the DSL.  The Staten Island Yankees could certainly use a little spice to their rotation, as the current mix isn't very exciting.  Taylor Morton has a solid ERA (2.81) over 16.0 IP in 3 starts, but he's walked more than he's struck out (9 BB/6 K), and Evan Rutckyj's 6 BB in 11.1 IP overshadow his better peripherals just a bit.  Ty Hensley finishing a deal with the Yankees and getting into action here could help strengthen the pitching staff.

Offensively, there are a few shinier names but not all of them have started to produce yet.  Ravel Santana is back on the field but off to a bit of a slow start (.103/.278/.103 in 35 PA), as are Claudio Custodio, Jose Rosaro, and Matt Duran.  2 guys who have started off strong are OF Taylor Dugas(1.007 OPS in 32 PA) and 1B Saxon Butler (1.089 OPS in 40 PA, 8 of his 14 hits for extra bases).  Young catcher Isaias Tejada has only played in 3 games due to injury, but when he gets back he could be a candidate for a quick promotion if he rakes again.

Low-A Charleston: 44-32 Record (5-4 in 2nd Half), Tied for 3rd in Division

The Low-A All Star Game has passed, with the River Dogs being well-represented.  Now that it's in the rearview, we should expect to see some promotions soon, Tyler Austin and Gary Sanchez for sure.  They're each still rocking insanely good offensive numbers (.461 wOBA for Austin, .400 for Sanchez) and have each showed enough improvement in the field to have people thinking they can stick at their positions long-term.  So who's going to step up and replace their production when these guys do move on?

Mason Williams should be more than up to the task.  He was on a hot streak this past week, highlighted by a continued showing of his improved power.  He's hitting .303/.353/.494 on the season, and has been the lineup's one consistent power source outside of Austin and Sanchez.  That's mainly because Dante Bichette, Jr. continues to struggle to find his power stroke.  He's hit the ball better in the past month, but he still only has 1 HR on the season and an incredibly low .338 SLG to match his OBP.  Angelo Gumbs also had a strong month, and got his season line up to .272/.320/.432, but hasn't played since going on the DL on Tuesday.

In the rotation, Bryan  Mitchell continues to be the consistently best arm, and even that arm comes with the same questions that surrounded him before the season.  Mitchell didn't throw more than 4.2 innings in any start this month, and allowed 4 ER or more in 4 of his 5 starts.  His ERA is up to 4.50 and walks continue to be an issue for him.  One thing that is still undeniable is Mitchell's stuff.  He's got 69 Ks in 66.0 IP, good for a career-hihgh 9.41 K/9.  Pedro Guerra was an All Star, and has been the team's best relief pitcher this season (2.08 ERA, 38 K in 35.0 IP).  Wouldn't be a surprise to see him get bumped up to High-A soon either.

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