Monday, September 3, 2012

Monthly Minor League Report (August): The Upper Levels

(Austin was the no-doubt best hitting prospect in the organization this year.  Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio)

The top 3 levels of the Yankee system, despite being arguably the most affected by injuries this season, have also been the source of the greatest success.  Both Triple-A Empire State and Double-A Trenton have won their divisions and will be participating in their respective postseasons, and High-A Tampa saw a lot of players on its roster at various points in the season who played very well and upped their prospect value as part of that team.  And even with the injuries hindering some of the big names up here, the Yankees still end the season with almost all of their prospect gems hidden somewhere in these 3 teams.  They aren't as top-heavy with MLB-ready talent as you'd like to see, but they have plenty of potential MLB talent that's getting closer.

The A-Horse Returneth

It's probably too early considering the minute amount of rehab innings he's played, and it's definitely seems more like another desperation/panic move influenced by the team's dwindling division lead, but no matter the reason, the Yankees have decided to bring Alex Rodriguez back and insert him into today's starting lineup.

I am very nervous, and very surprised, that the Yankees made this move after only 2 rehab games, neither of which are enough to draw a definitive conclusion on the condition of A-Rod's hand.  He DH'd in one game, played the field in the other, and did some side drills yesterday instead of playing a third game, which to me suggests that the hand is still not fully healed and nowhere near able to handle the stress of playing every day, be it in the field, just at the plate, or both.  But with the way the Yankee offense has looked lately, I guess the decision makers are thinking that even the presence of A-Rod in the cleanup spot is a better option than Andruw Jones or Eric Chavez at this point.  And you know what, even if the hand isn't fully healed I would have to agree with that logic.

Here's hoping this quick comeback doesn't lead to a follow-up DL stint.

Game 133 Wrap-Up: BAL 8 NYY 3

(Not the outing Phil had in mind.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

There probably hasn't been a win this season as big as the one the Yankees got on Saturday afternoon.  Down 2 runs late in the game, with a possible 1-game division lead on the line, and they did just enough to get the lead back and hold onto it to stabilize their slide for a day.  They had a chance to turn that into a series win and a much more comfortable 4-game lead yesterday, and had Phil Hughes and his excellent home start stats on the mound to try to get it done.  Their already short lineup was missing Curtis Granderson, who was resting his sore hamstring.  In his place was Chris Dickerson and the host of other lefty platoon bats.

Game Notes:

- Dickerson had a great season in Triple-A, mainly because he still has the ability to punish right-handed pitching.  In his first start this year in the show, he demonstrated that when he yanked a Chris Tillman cutter for a 2-out, 2-run HR in the bottom of the 2nd to get the Yankees on the board.

- Hughes was rolling early, mixing in his offspeed stuff (including The Slutter) well with his fastball, which he was commanding to both sides of the plate.  The first time through the order, he held the O's to just 1 baserunner and struck out 4.

- The Hughes Cruise looked like it was coming to an abrupt stop in the top of the 5th after Mark Reynolds fought back from a 1-2 count to CRUSH a HR to left to cut the lead in half.  But Phil worked around a couple of singles with a couple of big strikeouts to keep the damage to 1.

- Hughes' 5th-inning save was apparently just delaying the inevitable.  He lost his bite on his offspeed stuff and his command of his fastball in the 6th, and gave up 4 runs on a walk and 3 hits without retiring a batter.  Why he was left in to face Reynolds again is beyond me.

- There was no shortage of the Yankee offense shooting itself in the foot again in big situations, like back-to-back inning-ending double plays from Russell Martin and Derek Jeter in the 6th and 7th.  Jeter came up empty with RISP all day.

- Joe was forced to play mix and match with the bullpen bottom feeders after Hughes left (more on Joe later), and it didn't work out for him in the 8th.  5 pitchers combined to give up 3 ER on 3 hits and 2 walks to make it an 8-3 Baltimore lead.

- An Ichiro GIDP and a weak Andruw Jones flyout to right ended another ugly effort by the Yankees and cut the division lead back down to 2.