Some of you follow the Yankees minor league system very closely, and for you, this is going to be familiar information. For those who don’t pay much attention, we’ll try to provide the nuts and bolts with a level-by-level look at what happened this season, and we’ll start at the top with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Young pitching was expected to be a strength, and it was The Triple-A Yankees were fourth in the International League with a 3.80 ERA, but their lineup was in the bottom half of the league in runs scored.
Hitter of the Year: 1B Jorge Vazquez
He strikes out a ton, but there’s no denying the raw power of perhaps the organization’s most unusual prospect. Vazquez is already 29 years old, and he spent most of his career playing in Mexico, but at this point there’s little reason to doubt his ability to hit. His batting average is, well, average. His on-base percentage is disappointing. But the guy hit 32 home runs and 20 doubles in 118 Triple-A games this season. He missed a little bit of time with minor injuries and still finished second in the league in RBI.
Starter of the Year: RHP D.J. Mitchell
Honestly, you could make a case for Mitchell, Adam Warren or David Phelps, and truthfully, Mitchell is probably the smallest name of the bunch. He doesn’t have Phelps strikeout stuff, and Warren held hitters to a lower batting average, but Mitchell has ground ball stuff that carried him to 13 wins and a 3.18 ERA through 161.1 innings. A 10th-round pick in 2008, Mitchell would probably standout more if he weren’t in an organization with so much pitching depth. As it is, he’s more than holding his own with bigger names.
Reliever of the Year: RHP George Kontos
In the first half, it was closer Kevin Whelan who stood out, but by the end of the season, it was impossible to ignore Kontos. In his first full year back from Tommy John surgery, Kontos fully adapted to the bullpen as a long reliever with a 2.62 ERA, .221 opponents batting average and a little more than a strikeout per inning. The Yankees rewarded Kontos with a 40-man spot and a September call-up. He fell a little bit off the prospect map after the injury, but he’s back on the radar and pitched his way into the big league mix for next season.
Breakout performance: RHP Kevin Whelan
This is probably the closest Scranton came to a traditional breakout performance. Jordan Parraz had a great year in the outfield, but I’m not sure it changed his status. Lance Pendleton earned a lot of big league time, but he finished year out of the organization. Justin Maxwell was doing big things before he got hurt. Whelan, on the other hand, landed on the 40-man roster by finally improving his control and taking advantage of good stuff that’s always led to low opponents batting averages. Now the question is whether the Yankees were impressed enough to keep Whelan on the 40-man this winter. It might be telling that he didn’t get a September call-up.
Disappointing numbers: RHP Andrew Brackman
After last season, and strong first impression this spring, things seemed to be back on track for the former first-round pick. But the wheels fell off again this season. Brackman seemed to fall back into his old rut of high walk totals and erratic production. There is a bright side to his 6.00 ERA: In the second half, Brackman’s ERA was a much-improved 2.35 with a .149 opponents batting average. In his last nine outings — coming immediately after a nine-walk disaster — Brackman had a legitimately good pitching line: 20.1 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 17 K.
Top prospect watch: C Jesus Montero
There were quite a few prospects on this roster, but obviously none stands out quite like Montero. The Yankees top young hitter finally emerged in the second half and made an impact down the stretch. Overall, it wasn’t the dominant season some predicted — .288/.348/.467 — but he had a good July and a terrific August, and he might be finished with the minor leagues altogether. Of the regular catchers in the league, Montero had the lowest caught stealing percentage at just 20.5 percent. Montero was the only regular catcher below 25 percent and he was well behind league leader Raul Chavez who threw out 47.1 percent of base stealers.
Noteable: 3B Brandon Laird took a step back from last year’s breakout season, but still showed some of the power that makes him an intriguing corner man… Two of the true breakout prospect performances this season came from RHP Ivan Nova and RHP Hector Noesi, but they combined for only nine Triple-A appearances because they spent so much time in New York… OF Justin Maxwell spent most of the year on the disabled list, but before he got hurt, he had a .358 on-base percentage and a .588 slugging percentage. He’s still on the 40-man, and given the Yankees lack of upper-level outfield depth, his 48 games do standout a little bit… RHP David Phelps would have led the team in strikeouts with a relatively low walk total if not for a late-season injury. He’s now getting innings down the Arizona Fall League… If he had a spot on the 40-man, OF Jordan Parraz might have won a call-up with his .289/.362/.440 slash line. Truth be told, he outhit both Greg Golson and Chris Dickerson down in Triple-A… This team used 40 different pitchers. Forty!