Hi all. I am finally making my triumphant return from thesis-related exile, and should be back writing for TYU on a relatively frequent basis. Without further adieu, a recap of the first day of minor league action. We’re trying out a different format, where rather than transcribing the box scores, I am going to try to highlight a few players every night and write a more in-depth report. Let us know in the comment section what you think about this change.
Scranton shuts out Buffalo, 1-0
- Ivan Nova started for the Yankees, lasting 4 innings before being removed following a rain delay. Nova fanned 4 and allowed 3 hits and no walks throughout 4 shutout innings, a strong season debut for the 23 year-old righty. Nova is coming off a solid season in 2009 in which he dominated at AA Trenton (2.36 ERA, and a 2.47 GO/AO ratio), but struggled somewhat upon being promoted to AAA Scranton (5.10 ERA). Nova has always been a player whose stuff and scouting reports have been more impressive than his actual results. He has been able to many groundball outs with his low-90’s fastball, but his above-average changeup and curveball have not developed into bona fide strikeout pitches yet, although they have potential. In 2010, Nova is pitching to prove that he has a future in a major league rotation, and he could be one of the first callups should a member of the Yankees’ rotation succumb to injury. He could also wind up as trade bait, though given his inability to strike out hitters at a high rate, he is likely more of a throw-in than a centerpiece at this juncture.
- The Scranton bullpen of Mark Melancon, Boone Logan, and Jonathan Albaladejo (all 3 of whom will likely see major league time this season) combined for 5 shutout innings. Logan particularly impressed, striking out 4 in 2 shutout innings.
- The Scranton lineup looks to be pretty strong this season, with a number of players who could see major league time.
- Kevin Russo, who went 1-3 with a walk tonight, could make it to the bigs if Ramiro Pena struggles offensively or gets injured. Russo had a great season for Scranton in 2009, putting up a .326/.397/.431 line while playing all over the infield. Russo could be a valuable utilityman at the major league level. Though Kevin’s defense is inferior to Pena’s at present, his offensive upside and floor are both significantly higher.
- The most exciting prospect in the Yankee system to watch is Jesus Montero, who went 1 for 3 tonight for the Yankees with a double, while starting at catcher. Montero, ranked the #1 prospect in the Yankee system (and often a top 5 prospect in all of baseball) is trying to build off of a sensational .337/.389/.562 season between Tampa and Trenton at age 19, and is also trying to show that he has the ability to catch at the major league level. Few scouts question Montero’s hitting ability or power, but his defense at catcher has drawn many critics, and many people believe that he will move off the position in the near future. The Yankees, however, seem committed to leaving Montero at catcher, where he will be able to provide more value if he is even able to play mediocre to average defense (see Posada, Jorge). Montero will be the youngest player in the AAA International League, and could find himself earning a big league callup with an injury to Jorge Posada, Mark Teixeira, or Nick Johnson.
Trenton defeats Erie, 4-0
- Tonight’s outing was a microcosm of Christian Garcia‘s equally tantalizing and frustrating career. Garcia, considered to have the most raw talent of any Yankee minor league pitcher, has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. In 2009, Garcia put up an 0.71 ERA through 25 1/3 innings in AA Trenton, striking out 24 and walking 17, before succumbing to elbow tendinitis and having surgery. Garcia looked great through 5 2/3 scoreless innings tonight, allowing just 2 hits and a walk, and striking out 3. However, Garcia’s impressive performance was forgotten in the wake of another possible injury, as the 24 year-old righty took himself out of the game after feeling tightness and pain in his right elbow, including a “pinch”. Hopefully it is nothing serious, but given his checkered injury history, it is hard not to expect the worst from Garcia’s health. If he needs another elbow surgery, his career could be over. Garcia is a great talent who turned heads in spring training with a l0w-90’s fastball, and a curveball and changeup that both look like plus pitches. However, if he can’t stay healthy, it is all for naught.
- Austin Romine is the top prospect to watch in Trenton, and is considered a more likely long-term solution at catcher than Montero. Romine, who went 1 for 4 tonight, is coming off a .276/.322/.441 season for high-A Tampa. Romine has good hitting ability and above-average power, but his plate discipline (only 29 walks against 78 strikeouts) could hold him back from being an ab0ve-average hitter at the major league level. While Romine seems likely to stick behind the plate, he has allowed too many passed balls in previous seasons, and he needs to work to show that he can become an above-average defensive catcher.
Tampa tops Lakeland, 4-0
- Hector Noesi picked up right where he left off in 2009 with a strong outing on opening day. The 23 year-old righty, who put up a 2.92 ERA with 118 strikeouts against 15 walks (a 7.87 k/bb ratio!) is pitching in Tampa again despite pitching 41 1/3 effective innings there last season. Noesi, a sleeper prospect who was recently added to the 40-man roster, hurled 6 shutout innings, giving up just 2 hits and a walk, and striking out 6.
- Jose Pirela is an intriguing middle infield prospect who had a strong season for Charleston, putting up a .295/.354/.381 line at age 19 in the Sally League. Pirela received a six-figure bonus when he was signed out of Venezuela in 2006. Tonight, Pirela got his season off to a good start, playing short and going 3 for 4 with a double, a triple, and a stolen base. As the search for Derek Jeter’s successor continues, Pirela could prove himself to be the front-runner if he has a strong season in the tough Florida State League, and demonstrates that he can stay at shortstop.
- Abraham Almonte is a favorite prospect of mine who has put together a tantalizing but inconsistent career. In 2009, Almonte batted .280/.333/.391 while primarily playing center field. Despite his fire hydrant-esque physique (5’9″, 205), Almonte has great speed, and stole 36 bases in 41 attempts in 2009. If Abe’s position tonight was any judge, he will be playing left field in deference to Melky Mesa, which hurts Almonte’s prospect value if he can’t stay at center. Nonetheless, the switch-hitting, speedy outfielder has surprising pop, and could be a player to watch this season. Tonight, Almonte got his season started off well with a 2 for 4 game, including a triple.