Results tagged ‘ New York Yankees ’
With the 2013 MLB Draft starting Thursday, we thought we’d take the next few days to run down how some of the more intriguing picks out of the top rounds from the last few Drafts have fared. On Monday, we looked at 2009. On Tuesday, we looked at 2010.
Today, we turn our attention to 2011.
The 2011 Draft had some noteworthy storylines, ranging from two UCLA Bruins being selected in the first three picks to two Oklahoma pitchers being taken in the top seven. The Rays punched up their farm system with a league-high 10 picks in the first and sandwich rounds, starting with Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and finishing with James Harris at 60. But with only one full-time Major Leaguer among its ranks thus far, the book on the Class of 2011 still largely remains to be written.
- Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh (2013: Triple-A Indianapolis) – The 6-foot-4 right-hander has shot up the Pirates’ ladder and should be expected to make his Major League debut within the next few months before taking a more permanent role in the rotation next season.
- Danny Hultzen, Seattle (2013: Triple-A Tacoma) – The southpaw got Mariners fans excited by going 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA through his first four starts in the hitter-happy PCL this season. But he’s been shut down ever since with a rotator cuff strain and tendinitis.
- Trevor Bauer, Arizona (2013: Triple-A Columbus, MLB Indians) – Bauer was shipped to the Indians system as part of the deals that sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati and Didi Gregorius to Arizona last offseason. He’s played the role of spot starter at the Major League level this season, going 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA in three starts for the Tribe but hasn’t shown enough consistent command (11-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 1/3 innings) to earn a more permanent spot.
- Dylan Bundy, Baltimore (2013: injured) – MLB.com’s No. 2 prospect has yet to take the field due to elbow stiffness but has been cleared to begin throwing again. He will not undergo surgery.
- Bubba Starling, Kansas City (2013: Class A Lexington) – The Royals were slow to bring the center fielder along by not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year. He’s struggled at the plate so far, batting .206 with a .649 OPS in 49 games for Lexington.
- Anthony Rendon, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg, Triple-A Syracuse, MLB Nationals) – Rendon, who turns 23 on Thursday, tore up the Eastern League (.319/.461/.603) and even earned a promotion to The Show when Ryan Zimmerman hit the DL. He made a short stop in Syracuse but is back in the big leagues — this time as a second baseman — due to Danny Espinosa’s recent injury.
- Archie Bradley, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile) – At 7-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 12 starts between two levels, the 20-year-old right-hander has made a case to claim the best statistical season by a pitcher in the Minors thus far.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland (2013: Class A Advanced Carolina) – The reviews on the 19-year-old’s defense have always been high, but he looks like he’s taking the next step forward at the dish (.306/.375/.427) so far with the Mudcats.
- Javier Baez, Chicago (2013: Class A Advanced Daytona) – The Puerto Rico native has a lot of pop in his bat for a shortstop, although that’s not necessarily where he’ll stick given Starlin Castro’s place there for the Cubs. Through 51 games at Daytona, 33 of his 59 hits have gone for extra bases. He’s walked, though, just 23 times in 577 career plate appearances.
- Cory Spangenberg, San Diego (2013: Class A Advaned Lake Elsinore) – Spangenberg finds himself back in the Cal League after a concussion and hitting woes kept him from having a solid first full season. He’s improved in his second trip with the Storm however — his OPS is nearly 150 points higher — and his speed continues to be his calling card.
- George Springer, Houston (2013: Double-A Corpus Christi) – The University of Connecticut product could be the game’s next big thing, given his start to 2013. His 17 homers in the Texas League lead all Minor Leaguers, a hopeful sign for any Astros fan desperately looking for one.
- Taylor Jungmann, Milwaukee (2013: Double-A Huntsville) – Jungmann has yet to take off and, with a 4.78 ERA in 10 starts with the Stars, will need more seasoning before he or the Brewers can even entertain any thoughts about a promotion.
- Brandon Nimmo, New York Mets (2013: Class A Savannah) – The Mets have taken a similar approach to the Royals with their 2011 first-rounder, allowing Nimmo to finally make his full-season debut this season. He missed nearly a month in May, however, with a hand contusion and a back issue.
- Jose Fernandez, Miami (2013: MLB Marlins) – The first member of the Class of 2011 to become a full-time Major Leaguer, Fernandez has been one of the few bright spots for the Fish this season and remains a candidate for NL Rookie of the Year, despite having never previously pitching higher than Class A Advanced.
- Jed Bradley, Milwaukee (2013: Class A Advanced Brevard County)
- Chris Reed, LA Dodgers (2013: Double-A Chattanooga)
- C.J. Cron, LA Angels (2013: Double-A Arkansas)
- Sonny Gray, Oakland (2013: Triple-A Sacramento) – The A’s only pick in the first or supplemental rounds, Gray was merely OK (4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) in his first full season in the Texas League a year ago, but the right-hander is trending up once more after a solid start (2.40 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 10 appearances) with the River Cats.
- Matt Barnes, Boston (2013: Double-A Portland)
- Tyler Anderson, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Tyler Beede, Toronto (2013: did not sign, Vanderbilt) – Beede was the highest selected player who elected not to sign in 2011. The Auburn, Mass., native instead chose to play at Vanderbilt, where he went 14-0 with a 2.20 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings and was named a Golden Spikes Award finalist Tuesday. He will be draft eligible next season.
- Kolten Wong, St. Louis (2013: Triple-A Memphis) – The University of Hawaii product forms just one part of a very strong Cardinals system and has performed admirably at each step up the ladder. He’s already garnered a handful of honors — Texas League All-Star, Futures Game selection, AFL Rising Star — and should join Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez in making his Major League debut by this September at the latest.
- Alex Meyer, Washington (2013: Double-A New Britain) – Meyer moved to the Twins organization last offseason in the trade that sent Denard Span to the Nationals. He’d be the top prospect in the system if not for stellar sluggers Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. As it stands, the 6-foot-9 titan is MLB.com’s No.38 prospect and remains part of a promising future for those in Minnesota.
- Taylor Guerrieri, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Joe Ross, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Blake Swihart, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem)
- Robert Stephenson, Cincinnati (2013: Class A Dayton) – The Reds chose to bring the right-hander along slowly, not allowing him to make his full-season debut until this year in the Midwest League. He did not perform well out of the gate, going 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in five April starts but has since shown flashes of dominance. He was 5-0 with a 1.96 ERA in May for the Dragons.
- Sean Gilmartin, Atlanta (2013: Triple-A Gwinnett) – The left-hander advanced to Triple-A in his first full season and finds himself back there once again, where he’s been mostly solid. At 23, it’s still early in his professional development, and plenty of time remains for him to pitch his way into the already logjammed Atlanta rotation.
- Joe Panik, San Francisco (2013: Double-A Richmond) – Panik has shown an ability to hit for average and reach base at every level, and that’s continued in the Eastern League where he’s batting .286 with a .375 OBP.
- Levi Michael, Minnesota (2013: Class A Advanced Fort Myers)
- Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay (2013: Double-A Montgomery) – The tools are there for the Rays’ No. 11 prospect, even if the results necessarily haven’t been quite yet. The LSU product is batting just .240 for the Biscuits this season, but he’s shown some pop as well as speed. Of his 53 hits thus far, 24 have gone for extra bases, including seven triples.
- Jake Hager, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Matthews, Texas (2013: injured) – The left-hander has yet to pitch in 2013 due to an impingement in his left shoulder.
- Brian Goodwin, Washington (2013: Double-A Harrisburg)
- Jacob Anderson, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Blue Jays Org) – The 20-year-old outfielder couldn’t muster anything in the way of results (.194/.271/.304, 72 strikeouts in 191 at-bats) with Rookie-level Bluefield last year. As such, the Jays held him back from making his full-season debut this year and will look for him to grow in the short season once more before a trip to Lansing is considered.
- Henry Owens, Boston (2013: Class A Advanced Salem) – Owens, a lanky left-hander, showed some promising signs at Class A Greenville last year especially in the strikeout department, where he collected 130 strikeouts in 101 2/3 innings. He seems to have taken another step forward in 2013, where he is 3-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 62 K’s in 51 frames. The southpaw could be in Double-A before his 21st birthday in July.
- Zach Cone, Texas (2013: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach)
- Brandon Martin, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Larry Greene, Philadelphia (2013: Class A Lakewood)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston (2013: Triple-A Pawtucket, MLB Red Sox) – A breakout spring led to calls from Red Sox Nation to have Bradley on the team’s Opening Day roster, and the outfielder indeed found himself in the lineup in Game 1, only to be optioned back down in mid-April after struggles and inconsistent playing time necessitated the move. After a successful turn with the PawSox, he’s back up with the big club now due to Shane Victorino’s trip to the DL, and the former South Carolina star hit his first Major League home run Tuesday night.
- Tyler Goeddel, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Jeff Ames, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Andrew Chafin, Arizona (2013: Class A Advanced Visalia, Double-A Mobile)
- Michael Fulmer, New York Mets (2013: DNP) – Like fellow Oklahoman Bundy, Fulmer has yet to take the mound this season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in March.
- Trevor Story, Colorado (2013: Class A Advanced Modesto)
- Joseph Musgrove, Toronto (2013: Unassigned in Astros Org) – The 6-foot-5 right-hander was traded to the Astros as part of a 10-player deal last July. He’s pitched in only 41 2/3 innings in the pros since being taken in 2011 and hasn’t made his official Astros organization debut yet, although that will come when short-season leagues start soon.
- Keenyn Walker, Chicago White Sox (2013: Double-A Birmingham)
- Michael Kelly, San Diego (2013: Class A Fort Wayne)
- Kyle Crick, San Francisco (2013: Class A Advanced San Jose) – Crick’s stellar 2012 campaign in Augusta vaulted him to the top of the Giants’ prospect list entering 2013. Three starts into this season, however, he developed an oblique injury and has been sidelined ever since. He’ll bring a plus fastball and solid slider to the California League when he does return.
- Travis Harrison, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Dante Bichette Jr., New York Yankees (2013: Class A Charleston) – The name alone garnered some attention in 2011, and an MVP season in the Gulf Coast League only added to that. But Bichette hasn’t been able to put it together at the Class A level, which he is repeating this season. Even so, he’s posted just a .623 OPS through 53 games with the RiverDogs — a number that is 30 points lower than the one he put up in 2012.
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Bowling Green)
- Dwight Smith Jr., Toronto (2013: Class A Lansing)
- Brett Austin, San Diego (2013: did not sign, NC State) – The Padres couldn’t lure the Charlotte native away from a scholarship at NC State. The catcher/outfielder just helped lead the Wolf Pack to the Super Regionals, where it will take on Rice.
- Hudson Boyd, Minnesota (2013: Class A Cedar Rapids)
- Kes Carter, Tampa Bay (2013: Class A Advanced Charlotte)
- Kevin Comer, Toronto (2013: DNP, Unassigned in Astros Org) – Like Musgrove, Comer was part of the Blue Jays movement to take young high school arms that would be projects but could be big-time prospects if everything ironed out. Also like Musgrove, Comer was sent to the Astros and has yet to make his debut with the organization.
- Jace Peterson, San Diego (2013: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore)
- Grayson Garvin, Tampa Bay (2013: injured)
- James Harris, Tampa Bay (2013: Unassigned in Rays Org)
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches. Here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Red Sox prospect Bryce Brentz on changes he’s made in his approach this year: (Brentz mashes walk-off no-doubter)
“I’ve always been a guy who is a free swinger, and I have some strikeouts, but the one thing me and [hitting coach] Dave Joppie are working on is controlling the body. Sometimes, I end up lunging or being too, I guess, erratic in the box and go all out and get the ball. I need to slow things down with my hands and timing. That’s been really helpful. I can see pitches better and longer. I’m seeing some good results. Baseball’s a funny game — you go through stretches where you’re doing everything right and the hits won’t fall for you. I’m sticking with the routine Joppie and I established, slowing things down, especially with my lower half. I’m evenly distributed and in a good hitting position, and it’s paying off as of late.
“The things me and Joppie have been working on have been paying off very quickly. Paying good dividends. Usually, you make a small adjustment, and it takes a while to get used to. I made a very small adjustment, but it’s been helping me out as far as being able to stay back and see pitches better and not lunge and get too aggressive. That’s been my Achilles’ heel, being over-aggressive.
“It really starts with the hands. I’ve been really moving them a lot, moving the bat back and forth and sometimes I’ll get stuck with them, then I have to go and regenerate my hands to get back where I need to be. My shoulders will get rotated and it’ll throw off a lot of things.
“I’m not saying my swing is perfect now, but I’m slowing things down with my hands, keeping even and just getting a circular flow going. That’s slowing down my whole body and putting me in the position I need to be in.”
Daytona manager Dave Keller on Chicago Cubs’ Dustin Geiger’s leg kick: (Soler, Geiger tee off for D-Cubs)
“He’s continuing to make adjustments, and that’s nice to see. Any time a guy has a leg kick, timing becomes a huge factor that you have to stay on top of. You have to stay soft and low and be very, very relaxed because the pitchers — they go to the plate at different times and their moves are all different and everything else that can mess up your timing, which is probably the most important thing about hitting.
“He’s found a way to slow himself down, more than anything. He’s slowing his mind down and slowing his mechanics down and when you can do that, the ball looks slower, and I think that’s what he’s going through right now. He’s getting good pitches to hit and using the whole field.”
Keller on Cubs’ Jorge Soler learning English:
“Well, what ends up happening with foreign players over here is that as soon as they start learning the language, they find out the American players, the English-speaking players, they can’t wait to communicate with them. We take communication for granted sometimes. We have all different kinds of crazy things in the world now, technology that we use to communicate, and we often communicate worse. With all the texting and email and everything else, sometimes it just boils back down to talking and using the same language.
“He’s learning English, and the American players are helping him. Everybody understands you can’t be embarrassed to say something that doesn’t sound like it should. That’s something a lot of Latin players go through. From his standpoint, he’s still learning, and that’s helped him open up as a person.
“He’s getting there. I know during Spring Training a month and half ago, he had no idea when I’d start talking to him. … During Spring Training, he didn’t understand much English, so I tried to talk to him slow in English. He knows I speak Spanish. All the Latin kids know I’m bilingual, so it’s easy for them to speak Spanish with me when they want, but that doesn’t help them. I tried to talk slow, and that’s how you learn. Sometimes, he’ll say, ‘Oh, oh, too fast.’”
“He’s warming up to the whole atmosphere well. It’s really nice to see.”
Yankees’ Nik Turley on what he learned squaring off against rehabbing Jason Heyward: (Turley changes things up, gets win)
“Don’t groove in a fastball first pitch of an at-bat. The first at-bat, I got him with a fastball, struck him out looking. The next at-bat, he hit the RBI double off me. He got me, but at least I got him, too.”
Arizona’s Keon Broxton on drills he’s used to improve his swing/approach: (Broxton burning with two home runs)
“I’ll put a tee right in front of the plate and focus on hitting the ball up the middle. Then I’ll put a higher tee right behind my hands. It puts me in a good hitting position to swing down through the ball. When I try to do too much, I use a lot of my body with my swing and I fly open with my shoulders and drop my back shoulder. So keeping that back tee high by my hands, it makes me go down toward the ball. If I try to get big and use my body, I’ll hit it with the bat.
“That definitely helps me a lot. In batting practice, I don’t necessarily try to pull the ball. I stay middle to right-center. I keep my shoulders in and try to work down on the ball. I don’t try to hit bombs in BP. I’ll get pull happy and keep dropping my back shoulder and try to lift everything. I’ll do some soft toss with my coach. He’ll put two balls in one hand and he’ll soft toss one that’s hard then one that’s softer, and that gets me to where I have to stay in a good hitting position and wait for the ball to come to me.”
“I’ve made tremendous progress just by doing that every day. I’m learning how to stay in a strong hitting position and waiting on the ball and learning how to use my hands and body and work down on the ball. It’s helped with my pitch recognition and helped me with my power and my strikeouts.”
Pirates’ Stetson Allie on fighting the urge to abandon his approach: (Bucs’ Allie slugs two more home runs)
“I think the biggest for me is staying with the approach. I got away from it for a while, got power hungry and was pulling off really bad. If I stay with the same thing, I can see the breaking pitches and changeups better. It just works out that way. The adjustments pitchers were making, they were coming in a little bit, but I was chasing breaking balls also. When I get my foot down and time up, I can hit the breaking ball to left field and the fastball to right field. I’m not getting away from that.”
By Sam Dykstra
We’ll be the first to admit it. We entered the year with some expectations for certain players based on their histories and other things you can read in a scouting report. But now that we’re about a month into the season, it’s fun to look through the stat sheets and see who is off to a better start than most of us could have imagined. So with the caveat that there is plenty of season left and that we’re only looking at these players through the lens of the first 30-plus games, here’s who we think has been the most surprising with the bats at this early juncture.
International League: Josh Thole, catcher, Buffalo – The 27-year-old didn’t do much damage with the Mets last season (.234/.294/.290, one homer, 21 RBIs in 104 games). After being sent to the Blue Jays organization in the R.A. Dickey deal and losing out on his new team’s backup catcher job this spring, he’s found a bit of a resurgence with the bat in the early going with Buffalo. His .420 OBP ranks third in the IL while his .940 OPS is ninth. His four homers in 27 games already represent his highest total since 2008 when he went deep five times for Class A Advanced St. Lucie. Even with the demotion, no one expected Thole to thrive quite like this with the bat.
Pacific Coast League: Dean Anna, second baseman, Tucson – A lot of 26th-round picks don’t even make it as far as Triple-A, but the Tucson second baseman is thriving in his debut at the Minors highest level. His 14 doubles in 37 games almost match his 129-game total of 16 from last season at Double-A San Antonio while his five home runs are half the 10 he blasted last year over a much smaller span. If he were to continue at his current rate, Anna’s .321 average and .537 slugging percentage would be 41 and 97 points higher respectively than his career highs entering the season. (more…)
By Jake Seiner
Interviewing for game stories can be a fun process. The thousands of players and coaches spread across the Minor Leagues supply a never-ending chain of unique perspectives on the national pastime. The game story isn’t always the best place for block quotes and expanded thoughts, so once a week, I’m hoping to come here with a look back at some of the more interesting conversations I stumble upon with Minor League players and coaches.
Bits and pieces of these quotes may have appeared over at MiLB.com, but when you’re trying to dig into somebody’s back story, sometimes it’s most helpful to hear it all straight from the source. In that spirit, here’s a look back at some quotes from the past week that I hope you’ll find of interest.
Brandon Nimmo on moving from Wyoming to Brooklyn for his first full pro season:
“That first summer was a huge learning experience for me. I don’t think I went a day without learning something new. I was from a state where the whole population is less than what fits in a square mile in Brooklyn. We had 500,000 people in Wyoming. It was obviously a huge change for me, living that kind of lifestyle. I was used to being able to see for 40 miles out over the horizon. In Brooklyn, I could see about 40 feet. There were buildings all around you, people living on top of each other in small living spaces. I wasn’t use to that. I had to get used to that fast-paced lifestyle. The thing about baseball is you change your whole life and have to adjust quickly, and I got adjusted and enjoyed my time out there.
“This was a whole new experience for me. Going from, for me, I didn’t have high school ball, and in Legion ball, you faced a good pitcher maybe every fifth day or so. In the New York-Penn League, I just skipped a whole bunch of levels and was facing great guys all the time. You can’t take any at-bats off. It took time to learn how to approach the game and how to be at 100 percent or close to 100 percent every day, mentally and physically. It just, I had to learn how my body works in this kind of season. It’s just always a new learning stage for me. It was great, and I learned how to deal with a lot of failure.”
Padres prospect Max Fried on adjusting to pro ball:
“It’s different now because I’m a full-time pitcher. In high school, I was a two-way guy. Now I’m able to focus on one craft, and that’s opened up new things for me to work on and focus on on the pitching side. It’s also a lot different now because I’m going four or five innings per start rather than the two innings I was throwing last summer in the AZL. It’s enabled me to sort of grow and really just have a more regimented schedule to follow each time I go out.”
Fried on managing his body:
“I’m definitely a slender build, going about 6-4 and 185 pounds right now. I’m fine with that at the moment. Right now, I’m focusing on maintaining through the season, maybe just adding a few pounds. In the offseason, I’ll focus in on putting on muscle and getting stronger, but I’m not too worried about the weight right now. I’m definitely still maturing, and if my body wants to put on weight, it will.”
Fort Wayne pitching coach Burt Hooton (Fried’s coach) on coaching young hurlers:
“The reason these guys play Minor League Baseball is to get the experience. As a coach, you have to step back and let them learn from experience and point out what they should be learning. [Fried] doesn’t have that much professional experience under his belt. One thing you can’t slap on a guy is time and experience. That takes time.”
Pirates prospect Stetson Allie on his refined plate approach:
“I think, for me, it was, ‘I’m a big guy and I want to hit a bunch of home runs.’ For me, I can hit more home runs when I stay simple with my approach and try to drive the ball to right field. If I pull one over the fence, great, but I try to stay middle to middle away. When I first started, I wanted to crush balls, but as you move up, I’ve learned you have to have a hard-headed approach and stick with it. The harder you try to hit a home run, the more likely you won’t get it. For me, I just try to make solid contact every time and not even think about hitting home runs.
“That hasn’t been hard at all. Home run or not, I’m sticking with the same thing I’ve been doing. All I’m looking for right now is just hard contact. If it goes out, great. If not, at least I hit the ball hard. That’s what I’m going to stick with.”
Tampa manager Luis Sojo on Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez:
“When he’s on, his best weapon is to go the opposite way, left-center. He’s so strong, and he knows how to hit. When he’s good, he hits the opposite way. That’s something that’s really going to work down the road. Good hitters do that. Every time you see a good hitter, they can hit the other way. For his young age, he’s very good.”
Fort Myers manager Doug Mientkiewicz on Twins prospect Eddie Rosario:
“He’s a little unorthodox, but his barrel stays through the zone for a long time. The great ones at the big leagues, their bats stay in the zone for forever. Eddie does that. He has a special knack for finding the ball with the barrel. He has a presence when he walks up there. He’s one hell of a competitor. He finds a way to barrel up the ball, drive it line to line. He has a knack for that, always finds the barrel. The only way he’s making outs right now is if he gets himself out. He’s one of the better ones I’ve seen at staying flat through the zone.”
Dodgers catching prospect Tyler Ogle on 2012, when he played 43 games across four levels from Rookie ball to Triple-A:
“Last year was a growing up year for me. I was drafted fairly high, and I thought I was going to come into pro ball and continue to have success. That didn’t happen. My swing didn’t work well with wood, and my catching needed work.
“They kept me in extended, and I did a lot of growing up there. I had to fight to get myself out of extended and out of the AZL every day. I changed my swing, changed the way I catch. They had me start in the AZL and at that point, I told myself I gotta get out of here as best as I know how. That’s hitting and doing what I can behind the plate to help the pitching staff. After I started in the AZL, our farm director told me he that if I did my thing there, he would get me out, but that I had to prove myself.
“After a few games, he got me out like he said he would. I went to Michigan [to Great Lakes in the Midwest League] and I started 0-for-20, and I wasn’t feeling well at the plate. I was playing every couple of days, and I lost my consistency and routine. They saw that and didn’t think I was best suited there, so they sent me back to Short Season [Ogden]. I spent time there working a lot on my swing and I had my two hitting coaches from extended there at Short Season, and they took it upon themselves to get me back out there, Johnny Washington and Doug Mientkiewicz.
“Then Matt Wallach got hurt in Double-A, and all the catchers had to bump up a team, so they sent me back to Michigan, which was a lot of moving. For me, it was okay. I was comfortable. I had been to Michigan already once, and it was basically a second chance, but I don’t get to start over with a new average. I was picking up my 0-for-20. I turned it around a little bit, and then they sent me to Albuquerque to fill a backup role there, which was a great experience. It was a lot of moving around, but it taught me I have to be mentally tough.”
Will Leitch, one of America’s best sportswriters, has a feature in the current issue of New York Magazine called “The Glass Arm: Inside the art and science (but mostly still art) of keeping pitchers from getting hurt.” Check it out here.
On a warm, windy day in Tampa, everyone—fans, coaches, other pitchers—stops what they’re doing to watch Brett Marshall throw. It’s just a warm-up, with no actual game action scheduled for a few more days, so he’s not really letting it fly, but he doesn’t have to. Everyone is still staring.
It’s not the velocity, although that’s there. It’s not the distinctive thump of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt the way it does only for those blessed with such lightning arms. It’s how easy it looks. Each motion looks like the last motion, which looks like the last motion, which looks like the last motion. The fastball comes in at a consistent 94 mph, but it’s the changeup, widely considered his best pitch, that you have to keep an eye out for; the arm action is perfectly deceptive for being so repeatable. Marshall looks fluid and simple, like he could throw forever. To watch him pitch is to think that throwing a baseball is the most natural thing in the world. When he finishes, a group of fans standing on a walkway above burst into applause. He has simply been playing catch.
In the clubhouse afterward, Marshall is taking a sip of water and checking his iPhone with his non-throwing hand. He is 22 years old and seems unaware of the show he’s just put on. The display is over, just another workout session in a career full of them. Marshall has been in the Yankees organization for five seasons, and has climbed through the team’s minor-league ranks at the exact pace you’d want him to. He will likely spend this season in Triple-A Scranton, one stop from the bigs, where guaranteed contracts and the major-league-minimum salary of $490,000 a year, at the very least, await. If he puts up the kind of numbers scouts think he’s capable of—double-digit wins, with a 4.00 ERA, 175 innings a season, say—he could well earn $10 million a year or more. He’s on the verge of becoming a millionaire and playing for the New York Yankees in front of the entire world. And he knows it could all blow up in a second. “You just want your arm to hold up,” he says. “You have to not think about it. I do not, man. Not at all.”
Marshall is a Texas kid (baseball scouts have long had a fetish for Texas pitchers, from Ryan to Roger Clemens) who exploded on the scouting scene his junior year in high school. The fact that he had started out as a shortstop made many scouts believe he would be less injury prone because he’d thrown fewer pitches (the “you only have so many bullets in the gun” theory). Marshall lost the last start of his high-school career when he hit a batter in the state semifinals to force in the deciding run. It was his 146th pitch. The Yankees drafted Marshall in the sixth round in 2008. He pitched a total of twenty games (poorly; his ERA was 5.21) before his arm started feeling sore and the Yankees shut him down. He then had Tommy John surgery. He was 19.
This got me thinking about how many pitching prospects still in the Minors have undergone the operation we most associate with baseball’s best hurlers. So I wondered how many of the 29 pitchers that I interviewed in-depth last season for our Prospect Pitch series (first edition here, and you can click to other editions using the drop-down menu in the middle of the story) went under the knife. Here’s what I found:
Have undergone Tommy John:
- Cam Bedrosian (Angels) – “It’s frustrating. It is,” he said. “Coming back from it, it’s been tougher than I first imagined. I thought, ‘Once I get to about 12 months and get back in the system and throwing again, I’ll be all ready to go.’ But it’s been a lot tougher getting a feel for everything. My first couple of starts were a little — I was a little wild. It was hard to control the fastball and other pitches. Each time I throw, I feel a little bit better.”
- John Gast (Cardinals) – “I was more of a slinger — I had a lower arm slot in high school — and I had Tommy John surgery and changed my motion. [The slurve] was a little easier to throw when you’re slinging across it. I’m a little more on top than I was, but not by much. The action of the pitch hasn’t changed; the hitters are just better.”
- Drew Hutchison (Blue Jays) — Had the surgery not long after we spoke.
- Brett Marshall (Yankees) – “My first year, I threw a lot of curveballs. Every day, even after a start, I’d throw 100 curveballs on flat ground, just spinning ‘em, trying to get a feel for it. So after Tommy John [surgery in 2009], I was like, ‘Give me my sinker back. That’s what I had when ya’ll signed me, and that was one big thing that got me drafted.’ I have been throwing it ever since.”
- Eric Surkamp (Giants) – Had the surgery not long after we spoke.
- Navery Moore (Braves) – “I was throwing pretty hard in high school for my age, and that’s how I got hurt,” said Moore, who was clocked at 96 mph before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his elbow in March 2007. “I grew fairly quickly, and then out of nowhere, my body had to adjust to throwing that hard, on top of [using] mechanics that probably weren’t the best. … The hardest thing after [surgery] was getting my feel back. My arm strength was back, but it was just something about confidence and repetition to get back the feel for breaking pitches; I was trying to do too much with the breaking pitches.”
- Jake Petricka (White Sox) – Had the surgery way back in 2007.
Thinking back on the mid-December trade that brought baseball’s No. 6 prospect (catcher Travis d’Arnaud) to a pairing with baseball’s No. 8 prospect (right-hander Zack Wheeler) got me writing. Below I project the 10 best sets of batterymates throughout the Minors this coming season. You’ll see that the hurler-catcher duos cover nine different leagues.
An advisory: Each player’s name, once clicked, will take you to his bio/statistics page. His organizational ranking as a prospect is the “No.” in parentheses. If you have questions about a particular player, ask away in the comment section and I promise to answer. Also let me know if you agree/disagree with the rankings and present your arguments.
- Mets — Triple-A Buffalo (INT): Travis d’Arnaud (No. 1 in system) and RHP Zack Wheeler (No. 2)
- Braves – Triple-A Gwinnett (INT): Chrisitan Bethancourt (No. 2) and RHP Julio Teheran (No. 1)
- Mariners — Triple-A Tacoma (PCL): Mike Zunino (No. 3) and RHP Taijuan Walker (No. 1)
- Phillies: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Tommy Joseph (No. 3) and RHPs Ethan Martin (No. 2)
- Red Sox: Class A Advanced Salem (CAR) Blake Swihart (No. 9) and LHP Henry Owens (No. 5)
- Padres: Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore (CAL): Austin Hedges (No. 5) and RHP Matt Wisler (No. 8)
- Rockies: Class A Advanced Modesto (CAL): Will Swanner (No. 8) and LHP Tyler Anderson (No. 6)
- Rangers: Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach (CAR): Jorge Alfaro (No. 5) and RHP Luke Jackson (No. 13)
- Pirates: Triple-A Indianapolis (INT): Tony Sanchez (No. 16) and RHP Gerrit Cole (No. 1). This omission was pointed out by a thoughtful reader on Twitter.
- Yankees — Double-A Trenton (EAS): Gary Sanchez (No. 1) and RHP Jose A. Ramirez (No. 13)
- Phillies (2): Triple-A Lehigh Valley (INT): Sebastian Valle (No. 8) and RHP Jonathan Pettibone (No. 4)
- Mets (2) Class A Savannah (SAL): Kevin Plawecki (No. 17) and RHP Luis Mateo (No. 9)
- D-backs: Class A Short-Season Missoula (PIO): Stryker Trahan (No. 11) and RHP Ben Eckels (UR)
- Pirates (2): Class A Short-Season Jamestown (NYP): Wyatt Mathisen (No. 10) and RHP Tyler Glasnow (No. 19)
- Brewers: Class A Short-Season Helena (PIO): Clint Coulter (No. 10) and RHP Damien Magnifico (No. 20)
Interview Outtakes: Yankees Prospect Mason Williams Answers Seven Questions about Playing Center Field
This morning, MiLB.com published the third part of my nine-part series on top-ranked prospects who are also top-rated defenders. The piece (linked here) focuses on Yankees center fielder Mason Williams (bio, stats here), the 10th-ranked outfield prospect in all of baseball, and his big-play ability. In terms of interview extras, see below. Enjoy.
- On how he ended up in center field: “Growing up, I actually played shortstop. I was an infielder growing up. My sophomore year of high school, I started playing center field. I could cover a good bit amount of ground out there. I feel like I’m confident enough to play the outfield and have good range and am definitely trying to get better at it. I was thoroughly OK with the change. I’d play wherever. I just wanted to play. I definitely feel very comfortable in center field, and I love how I’ve been working there.”
- On learning the nuances of CF: “It was an OK adjustment because I had a good amount of experience before I signed. One of the things I had to work with was my throwing angles. Because I played shortstop when I was younger growing up, your arm slot is definitely different throwing from shortstop than it is from center field. [I'm] definitely working on working on top more and getting more backspin on my balls in the outfield [so that] they have the ability to carry more. That was something I really worked on. I feel very good how I have come along since my first year, but I still have a lot of things to work on. One of the things I have been working on recently is having a better first step or jump in the outfield. It’s mental and physical: knowing the pitcher and the batter, whatever the score and inning is. There are definitely situations where I play differently in the outfield. And it’s physical: I get a lot of reps in practice. That’s the best time to work on it.”
- On an example of how he takes his first step on the ball: “Usually, your power hitters, the guys that have a little bit of pop at the plate, I will play them to pull and a little bit deeper than I would a leadoff hitter or someone in the lower half of the lineup. The biggest thing is getting a lot of reps at practice and doing it the right way. [The BOB drill] is most of my help. BOB is Balls Off the Bat. That’s where I get my first jumps, and that’s definitely a huge part of my learning process in the outfield.”
- On how good defense can make up for lagging offense: “I definitely want to contribute in any way I can. Say I’m having a bad day at the plate, maybe I’ll go out to the outfield and make a play. If I’m not impacting the game on offense, I want to try to impact it on defense.”
- On what he does to ensure he’s defending correctly: “I personally don’t watch as much video of my defense as I do my hitting. I watch a lot of video of my hitting. Say, if I’m not hitting well, I like to go back a year or two to when I was hitting well, I [look for] what I was doing right then that I’m not doing now. [On defense], it’s about trusting my instincts and getting as much reps as I can. If you do the reps in practice the right way, you’re going to carry that out to the game.”
- On what is hard about playing CF: “Communication is not looked at or talked about [enough]. I would say that I communicate with my outfield. I feel like myself and my fellow outfielders communicate a lot, and we’re always moving around; we’re never staying the same spot… I wouldn’t say we communicate every pitch, but every three or four pitches we say something or we’ll make eye contact to see where each other are. I like to know before every pitch where my left and right fielders are… [Calling off a teammate] is a feel thing, but you definitely have to say, “I got it, I got it.” Say the ball is hit to the warning track, you can tell your other outfielders, ‘Hey, you’re near the track,’ or ‘Close to the fence,’ to let him know. A big part of communication in the outfield are those little fly balls that go behind second base or right around the shortstop, [creating] triangles [of fielders] around second base. Those are times when communication plays a big role.”
- On other CFers he likes to watch: “I used to like to watch Ken Griffey Jr. He’s always been my favorite player since I was young. Now that he’s not in the game, I like to watch [the Tigers'] Austin Jackson, who came through the Yankees [system]. I definitely like to watch [the Orioles'] Adam Jones. I definitely like to pick pieces of their game and make it my own. Definitely how explosive their first steps are off the bat. They take outstanding jumps and outstanding leads almost 100 percent of the time. So if I can watch how they come off the ball, I like to try to make it my own way.”
I also spoke with Yankees’ instructor/international player development coordinator Pat McMahon. Beyond the McMahon-provided material that made it into the article, here are some extras from him. Enjoy
- On Williams’ work ethic: “He demands an awful lot out of himself, and I think that’s a positive. That’s not atypical of other players, but he places high demands on himself. Now controlling that is something he works very hard on.”
- On Williams’ range: “Watching him go get balls is really special. You watch one player go get a ball in the outfield, and then another player makes it look easier. The distance he can go to get balls and make them look like easy plays, it’s just like, ‘Wow.’”
- On Williams’ positioning: “He breaks on the ball very well, and he’s working very hard on defensive positioning and reading of swings so that he can get to balls in game situations as they occur. Some outfielders don’t see that, but he works very hard on understanding a hitter and his swing against a various pitcher.”
- On comparing Williams to other outfielders: “He’s in the elite category.”
If you think Tyler Austin — who went from 13th-round pick in 2010 to one of the best Minor League hitters in 2012 — will rest on his laurels in 2013, consider that he’s been in Tampa, Fla. since Jan. 15. That’s when his Spring Training began.
I caught up with the Yankees’ No. 3 — and baseball’s No. 75 — prospect (bio, stats here) on Friday evening to ask him about how his transition from the infield to right field is going. (A colleague of mine spoke with Austin, 21, in a more wide-ranging interview on Jan. 22 if you’d like a read.)
On his transition from 3B/1B in 2011 to RF in 2012: “At first, I was a little skeptical about it. I didn’t know what to think. I had never played right field before. If I had, it was maybe for an inning or so. But I took to it well. I really couldn’t be more comfortable out there now after this past season, the way I played, the way I performed out there. It was just awesome, in my mind, the way I took to the position.”
On how long it took him to feel comfortable in RF: “It was probably — after about a month of early minicamp and stuff like that, I was pretty comfortable out there. A lot of times, it was my routes [that needed improvement]. I was circling the ball a lot, not taking a direct path to it. That was probably the hardest thing for me out there. It goes back to [practicing] during BP, that’s as close as you’re going to get to game-like [fielding]. I take a lot of pride in doing that and doing it well and trying to do it every day. It’s gradually gotten easier and easier.”
On his strengths as an outfielder: “I would say definitely my arm. I think when the ball is hit to me and the runner is on second base or third and they’re tagging, I think the [third base] coaches are, hopefully, a little bit hesitant to send their guys, knowing that I’m fixing to throw. I love that [game situation]. That’s probably one of my favorite things of being out there.”
On his mindset when Class A Charleston/Class A Advanced Tampa teammate Mason Williams is playing next to him in CF: “Honestly, I’m going after every ball as hard as I can, and I’m going to try my best to get there, but it definitely takes a little off my shoulders, knowing that he’s going to be right there to make the play if I’m not able to get to it.”
On who he’ll man the outfield with in 2013: “I’m just looking forward to playing this season either with [Williams] or Slade Heathcott. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good year. Hopefully, I’ll be in New York later on down the season.”
Following a career-best season that included games like this one, MLB.com’s No. 36 overall prospect Gary Sanchez will very likely make his Double-A Trenton debut sometime next season. Here are the four jerseys — belonging to the GCL Yanks, Staten Island Yanks, Charleston RiverDogs and Tampa Yanks — that Sanchez has worn thus far, in a gallery. You may notice a more closed batting stance in the fourth shot; Sanchez credited his success last season, in part, to this mechanical change.