Sunday, July 1, 2012

Monthly Minor League Report (June): The Upper Levels

(Hey!  Look who's back in Double-A! Note: not a good thing.  Used courtesy of

The upper levels of the Yankee MiL system are very interesting places right now.  The starting rotations continue to be chaotic, ever-changing groups of pitchers, many of whom are underperforming to some degree or injured.  The lineups are still a mixture of hitters either hitting the cover off the ball or barely making contact, although there were more who hitter better in June than worse.  A couple of the bigger names are starting to come around after early slumps, and with the pressure of lower-level call ups stealing their playing time, their timing couldn't have been better.

High-A Tampa: 35-41 Record (5-4 in 2nd Half), 4th in Division

With Slade Heathcott spending the first 2+ months of the season rehabbing his shoulder, J.R. Murphy was the premiere hitting prospect on the High-A roster, but for the first 2 months he didn't do much of anything to justify his high ranking in most people's top prospects lists.  That finally started to change in June, and just in time as Heathcott is now back on the High-A roster, although not yet in the field.  Murphy had a great month in June (27-86, 10 XBH, 13 RBI) and has raised his season line to .261/.324/.379, still nothing special but a helluva lot better than the .500-.600 OPS range he was in for the first 2 months.

Ramon Flores continues to improve at the plate, with an OPS in the mid-.700s, a .346 wOBA, and solid 8.2% BB rate on the season, and Rob Segedin's continued solid production at the plate should earn him a promotion to Trenton sometime in the next week or so.  In the rotation, Nik Turley is still working his way back from his blister problems, and struck out 7 over 4 innings in his last outing, and lefty Matt Tracy continues to impress.  He had a poor outing on Friday night, but overall in June Tracy pitched 24.2 innings over 4 starts and allowed just 19 hits and 9 ER (3.28 ERA).  Shane Greene had the best month out of any starter, pitching to a 26.1 IP, 19 H, 6 ER, 9 BB, 29 K line in 5 starts.

Double-A Trenton: 44-35 Record, 2nd in Division

Dellin Betances made his not-so-gallant return to the Thunder rotation last night, pitching 6 shutout innings in the process.  He joins the trio of Brett Marshall (24 IP, 13 ER, 17 K in 4 June starts), Shaeffer Hall (28 IP, 16 ER, 25 K in 5 starts), and Vidal Nuno (31.1 IP, 4 ER, 23 K in 5 starts) that have been leading Trenton of late.  It certainly doesn't do any good things for Betances' prospect status being demoted from the highest level due to poor performance, but if he can get things right maybe he can salvage something out of this season.

Jose Pirela was the hot hitter for Trenton in June, his first full month back in action.  Pirela went 43-113 with 12 BB, 22 R, and 16 RBI, and with him still being just 22, he's starting to establish himself as a legit middle infield prospect.  Melky Mesa had a solid month, and is quietly putting together a nice season (.258/.339/.443, .368 wOBA, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 12 SB), and Zoilo Almonte looked much better this month as well, getting his OPS back above .700, his wOBA above .320, and hitting 17 R/24 RBI in his first full month of action this year.  All of these guys will have to keep this up in July after Cody Johnson was felled with a hamstring injury that may keep him out for the rest of the season.

Triple-A Empire State: 46-37 Record, 3rd in Division

The rotation commotion continues for the homeless Scranton/Wilkes-Barre boys as the season changed from spring to summer.  Manny Banuelos is still on the shelf with elbow problems and doesn't seem any closer to returning, Betances has been demoted to try to get his shit together, Adam Warren had a solid month of June (31 IP, 27 H, 7 ER in 5 starts) but got destroyed in his Major League debut on Friday night, and D.J. Mitchell's ERA/FIP splits continue to go in the wrong direction.  Ironically enough, on this supposed Triple-A All Star staff it's been former Major Leaguer Ramon Ortiz who has been the best pitcher for Empire State this season (2.78 ERA/3.85 FIP w/ just 1.89 BB/9 in 90.2 IP).  Preston Claiborne was recently promoted to fill Betances' spot, and with the relief work he did for Trenton it was a worthy promotion.

Offensively, it's a pair of former Major Leaguers leading the charge, and in a powerful way.  Russell Branyan, back from his earlier back injury, and Jack Cust combined for 19 HR and 58 RBI in June and provided some much needed pop to an otherwise weak lineup.  Corban Joseph went 28-106 in his first full month of Triple-A ball, and also popped 4 HR to show that he might have what it takes to be a viable utility IF option, and Chris Dickerson and Ronnier Mustelier have to be near the top of the potential call-up list if more injuries necessitate it, but the rest of the regular crew continues to do a whole lot of nothing.  The good news is that Austin Romine has resumed baseball activities and could return by the end of next month.

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