Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yanks Get Aggressive With Minor League Promotions, But Not Too Aggressive

(Do you, Raffy.  Do you.  Courtesy of MiLB.com)

I have no evidence to back this claim up other than my own memory, but it seems like the Yankees have been on the cautious side recently when it comes to promoting their top prospects.  They didn't rush Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, or Manny Banuelos, aren't rushing guys like Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams now, and didn't give any indication they were going to be anything but patient with Ty Hensley and Austin Aune.  In the past few days, however, they've executed a small series of Minor League promotions that seem to be coming a bit earlier than usual.  I can't recall there being many promotions for top prospects before the MiL All Star Games in the last few years.  These recent moves could signal a slight change in philosophy when it comes to development and promotion.

The key names in this potential shift, if you weren't already aware, are J.R. Murphy, Jose Ramirez, and Rafael DePaula.  Murphy was bumped up to Triple-A on Friday after hitting .268/.352/.421 (.353 wOBA) in 211 plate appearances in his return trip to Double-A.  Not earth-shattering numbers by any means, but when combined with his continually improving defense proof that Murphy has learned what he needed to learn and is ready for the next level.  Similar concept for Ramirez (2.76 ERA, 50 K/15 BB in 42.1 Double-A IP) and DePaula (2.94 ERA, 96/23in 64.1 Low-A IP).

If nothing else, these guys proved that there was little benefit to them sticking around to pad stats at their current level.  Rather than wait around for the All Star Games to end so guys could play and waiting for the SS league rosters to shape up so they could make phantom roster moves as needed, the Yankees got aggressive and bumped these guys up.  And for these 3 players, it makes perfect sense.  The Yankee Major League catching depth is a borderline joke without Cervelli, and Austin Romine hasn't done anything to cement his former top prospect status.  If the decision makers think Murphy is ready for Triple-A, why not call him up to start getting him reps while the opportunity is there?

Ramirez impressed in both Major League spring camp and Double-A, but he's also known for his tendency to get banged up.  Knowing his stuff will play at Triple-A, the Yanks might as well bump him up and get him another step closer to being a useful Major League piece.  And DePaula, as a 22-year-old in Low-A ball, is behind the typical development curve.  Whether the Yankees meant what they said about taking it slow with him or not, when a guy is striking out 13.43 batters/9 innings there's no reason not to move him up.  The Yankees were aggressive with the types of prospects for which it made sense to be aggressive and that's a smart tactic to employ when you're looking for more cheap internal players for the future.

That's not to say the Yankees completely abandoned some of their patience and willingness to wait on guys. Low-A strikeout machine Dietrich Enns was also called up to Tampa with DePaula yesterday and his numbers indicate that this particular promotion was a long time coming.  Enns' eye-popping numbers were also the first time he's pitched in a full-season league, so without a large sample size of results to judge on, it actually makes sense to me that they waited until now to bump him up.  They're also staying patient with Sanchez, not moving him up to Double-A to replace Murphy immediately even though he's rocking a .370 wOBA and 10 HR in his High-A return year, and letting Mason Williams and Tyler Austin work through their struggles at their respective levels.

To say this has been a good season for the Yankee farm system - of their top 4-5 prospects, only Sanchez has done anything of value - would be a gross overstatement.  Where their top guys have sputtered, some names a few spots below in the rankings have shined and the Yankees have not hesitated to reward them with the promotions they deserved.  Hopefully this a trend we see continue with their new crop of top draft picks, Jagielo and Judge in particular, when they're all signed and assigned to their teams.

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