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Minor League Year in Review: High-A

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Oct 31, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The Yankees only full-season affiliate to finish with a sub-.500 record, the Tampa Yankees were caught somewhere in between Low-A Charleston’s big names and Double-A Trenton’s steady results. There were some standouts in Tampa, but there were also a lot of partial seasons as elite players came and went throughout the season.

Slade Heathcott showed up late, J.R. Murphy left early and Tyler Austin made only a pit stop.

On this roster, you had to look for the flashes. And there were enough of them to make this group worth watching.

Player of the Year
LF Ramon Flores
He’s not one of the big three outfield prospects – Heathcott, Williams, Austin — but Flores deserves a spot in that next tier. He hasn’t hit for typical left-field power, but he’s shown an ability to hit for average, get on base and steal a bag. Because of the position he plays, and because of the other outfielders all around him, Flores is understandably overshadowed. He probably should be. His skill set isn’t a slam dunk to play at the big league level (I once heard him compared to Jose Tabata, and look at Tabata’s ups and downs). But after hitting just .207 in the month of April, Flores finished the year with a .302/.370/.420 slash line in Tampa. He moved up to Trenton at the very end of the season, and will almost certainly start next season in Double-A (probably in an outfield with Heathcott and Austin). First baseman Kyle Roller was Tampa’s biggest run producer, but Flores finished second in the league in runs while ranking Top 10 in on-base percentage, batting average, doubles, triples, total bases and stolen bases.

Pitcher of the Year
LHP Nik Turley
Blisters limited his workload early in the year, but Turley ultimately topped 100 innings for the first time and finished tied for the team lead in innings pitched. He also led the Florida State League with a 2.89 ERA before an end-of-the-year promotion to Trenton. Turley is a big guy — listed at 6-foot-6 — and he’s always been something of a project ever since the Yankees took him in the 50th round and coaxed him out of a commitment to BYU. Opponents hit .235 against him, and he went 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA after the All-Star break. Although the individual innings were limited, this wasn’t a bad rotation with Matt Tracy, Zach Nuding and Jose Ramirez, but it was Turley who most stood out from start to finish.

Reliever of the Year
RHP Mark Montgomery
It’s worth noting that there has to be a separate category here for Montgomery. Turley was excellent while pitching nearly three times as many High-A innings as Montgomery, but the real star of this pitching staff might have been their closer. Montgomery built on his tremendous 2011 debut, and through 40.1 High-A innings, he struck out 61, walked 16 and allowed just 23 hits, none of which were home runs. Tommy Kahnle was nearly just as impressive with 72 strikeouts and 24 walks through 55 innings. Aaron Dott and Brandon Pinder were also good out of the bullpen. Hard to ignore a starter’s workload, but on this roster, the bullpen really shined.

Breakout performance
RHP Jose Ramirez
This guy has been a legitimate prospect for quite a while, but injury and inconsistency made him such an uncertainty that Baseball American left Ramirez out of their Top 30 Yankees prospects this season. My friend Patrick Teale – who follows the lowest levels of the minor league system closely and as well as anyone – kept Ramirez among his Top 15 Yankees prospects, but even Patrick acknowledged that Ramirez had likely pitched his way out of rotation consideration and into the bullpen. Of course, that was before Ramirez delivered a 3.19 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 98.2 innings this season. He missed about a month with a strained lat, but his true breakout came in the second half when he had a 2.17 ERA with a .205 opponents batting average through 10 starts and three scattered relief appearances. Ramirez has a big fastball and a good changeup, and he truly pushed himself forward this season. I always consider Double-A a huge test, and that’s next for a guy who could establish himself as a legitimate rotation prospect for the not-so-distant future.

Disappointment
CF Eduardo Sosa
Given the outfield depth in the Yankees system, opportunities for borderline center field prospects are getting harder and harder to come by. But Sosa was given one this season. Slade Heathcott wasn’t ready to open the season, Mason Williams and Ravel Santana weren’t ready for High-A, and so Sosa was Tampa’s starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on Opening Day. By mid-July, he’d been demoted to Charleston. Sosa hit just .237/.297/.307 in 241 High-A at-bats, and the results weren’t much better after he was sent down. He’d shown some life in the first half of 2011, but at this point it’s hard to put much stock into what was once considered an intriguing young player with good speed and a good glove. He’s still young — just turned 21 this year — but how many more chances is he going to get in this outfield-heavy organization?

Prospect watch
CF Slade Heathcott
Two shoulder surgeries and two strikeout-heavy seasons were enough to create real doubt about Heathcott’s ability to truly capitalize on his enormous talent. The Yankees moved slowly with him this season, keeping him in extended spring training, then limiting his time in the outfield, but the results were as encouraging as anything Heathcott’s done as a professional. He hit .307/.378/.470 in 60 games with Tampa, and he’s since moved to the Arizona Fall League where he’s continued to produce. Heathcott still strikes out a lot, but his .374/.430/.516 month of August — when he had 10 stolen bases without getting caught — gave some idea of his lofty upside. The Yankees still need to see him get more than 300 at-bats in a season, but this year was a unmistakable positive, reviving Heathcotts status as one of the Yankees elite prospects.

Odds and ends
Very similar to his 2011 season, first baseman Kyle Roller hit .266/.357/.471, and this time he was tied for the organizational lead with 85 RBI. He was outstanding in the second half — .286/.371/.521 with 11 homers — and remains in that fringy prospect area as a guy who has produced without generating any buzz. He’s a first baseman, so the bat is really going to have to play up for him to get much of a look, but he hasn’t faded away and Double-A could be a significant step next season. … Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and Anderson Feliz each hit their way to Tampa after opening the season with Low-A Charleston. Austin finished the year in Double-A, Williams wound up on the disabled list, and Feliz got just 67 High-A at-bats, but Sanchez wound up really hitting his stride in Tampa. After a rocky month of July, Sanchez hit .319/.354/.479 in the month of August, further establishing himself as an elite young hitter. … It didn’t carry over to Double-A, but Rob Segedin did hit .297/.362/.448 in 290 High-A at-bats. … I would love to see catcher Kyle Higashioka take off because he’s such a good guy, but he just hasn’t been able to hit. … Finally healthy again, former supplemental-round pick Jeremy Bleich had mixed results in 16.1 innings with Tampa. Next year could really define whether he’s still worth following. … Big right-hander Zach Nuding is getting extra innings in the Arizona Fall League after pitching to a 3.89 ERA with Tampa. There’s some thought that he might eventually land in the bullpen, but for now the Yankees are letting him start. He’s even working as a starter in Arizona.

Big picture

Out of spring training, Tampa had the most boring roster in the Yankees system. The elite young players were down in Charleston, the top pitchers were up with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Tampa was kind of barren step in between.

Along the way, though, Tampa saw some of the system’s more intriguing performances. Montgomery seems to be a legitimate standout, Heathcott returned in a big way, and guys like Flores, Ramirez, Turley and Kahnle began to emerge from the shadows. That’s to say nothing of the mid-season arrivals of Williams, Austin and Sanchez.

This was not the most exciting or successful team in the system, but you couldn’t ignore it either.

Comments

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45 Responses to “Minor League Year in Review: High-A”

  1. BoJo October 31st, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    My first off-season request–

    Sign Joachim Soria to a minor league deal, and let him heal.

  2. BoJo October 31st, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Pardon the typo…been out a long time.

  3. roidger October 31st, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Nick, can i ask a huge favor of you? And I’ll reciprocate if it’s ok with you.

  4. roidger October 31st, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Oops. It’s me.

  5. Benny Blanco October 31st, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Jerkface, do you want the Yankees to resign soriano. I don’t think the Yankees will be in danger if they don’t resign him. Other people have to step up and the Yankees and us fans will have to have patience. Period.

  6. CompassRosy October 31st, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    I’m sure most teams are doing this but, nice to see…

    Russell Wilson ?@DangeRussWilson
    Red Cross volunteers are collecting cash donations @SoundersFC match Friday night & @Seahawks game Sunday for Hurricane Sandy #Relief!

  7. jacksquat October 31st, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    For me it’s either Mo (for a reasonable deal) or Robertson.

  8. blake October 31st, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Hey bojo

  9. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    “For me it’s either Mo (for a reasonable deal) or Robertson.”

    JS

    “reasonable deal” for Mo?

    Personally I hope he gets more then Soriano does. In fact I hope he fleeces Hal and Co. for a totally unreasonable deal. They can afford it and he deserves it.

  10. jacksquat October 31st, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    The more Mo makes, the less there is for other parts of the team.

    Being 43 and coming off an injury, and basically not having pitched last year, if I were GM I would not offer him 15 mil, no.

  11. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    “The more Mo makes, the less there is for other parts of the team.”

    Somewhere…. Hal just smiled.

  12. jacksquat October 31st, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    Oh please…

  13. UnKnown October 31st, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Kent still on Survivor Island I see.

  14. jacksquat October 31st, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    You’re right, let’s hope they “have to” pay Mo 20 mil and it means one less good player somewhere else and lessens the team we root for chances of winning.

  15. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    “You’re right, let’s hope they “have to” pay Mo 20 mil and it means one less good player somewhere else and lessens the team we root for chances of winning.”

    Oh please is right. 189 is the new mantra. Same dumb argument I heard about Jeter reincarnated for Mo.

    And if the Yankees offer Soriano 13.3 QO, they better offer Mo more than that. SImple as that.

    As good as last year was for Soriano, it still wasn’t as good as Mo’s last full year. Mo is still the better closer, Not to mention a Yankee freaking god. There are certain players you just don’t cheap out on, Mo is one.

    But yeah let’s be “reasonable” about not spending Ha’ls money or he might not sign another good player. What a crock

  16. blake October 31st, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    @MinorLeagueBlog: Good news for #Yankees fans. Dellin Betances is pitching well in the Arizona Fall League so far. 1-1, 2.84ERA, 6.1IP, 3BB, 8K, .136BAA

  17. Jerkface October 31st, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Which is why the ‘pay jeter what he wants’ crowd never made sense, because as it turns out there isn’t a ‘special budget’ for legendary players. Not with the luxury tax anyways.

    I hope they get Mo back for the smallest amount he’ll take to play. I do not think they should re-sign Soriano, but they should offer him the QO. If he happens to accept it, which I think is unlikely, then trade him.

  18. CompassRosy October 31st, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Speaking of prospects…

    Top Prospect Alert ?@MinorLeagueBlog
    Good news for #Yankees fans. Dellin Betances is pitching well in the Arizona Fall League so far. 1-1, 2.84ERA, 6.1IP, 3BB, 8K, .136BAA

    and, even some good news for M’s fans…
    Top Prospect Alert ?@MinorLeagueBlog
    #Mariners Stefen Romero continues to rake. 2-5, 2B, RBI today. Hitting .378 in the Arizona Fall League. Has a hit in all but one #AFL game

    YF ~
    You around?
    I noticed that the Australian Baseball League starts tomorrow and FOXSports is going to air a weekly show dedicated to it as well as a game of the week…
    http://tinyurl.com/cd3cwy4

  19. blake October 31st, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    “Which is why the ‘pay jeter what he wants’ crowd never made sense, because as it turns out there isn’t a ‘special budget’ for legendary players. Not with the luxury tax anyways.”

    But The Jeter deal was before the new CBA….and the only reason there is a budget at all is because Hal wants one…..I don’t think anyone really wanted them just to hand Jeter a blank check…..or even give much in the talks…..it should have just been kept private …..same should be true with Mo.

  20. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    “Which is why the ‘pay jeter what he wants’ crowd never made sense, because as it turns out there isn’t a ‘special budget’ for legendary players. Not with the luxury tax anyways.”

    I am guessing that’s a quote from Hal. He’s wrong–he’s just not aware of it yet.

    I have news for Hal, attendance was down. You didn’t even sell out a post-season game. I’m betting there is not a “special budget” line to account for the loss of revenue by not putting the best team possible on the field.

    No it doesn’t mean be stupid and throw money around (cough ALex cough), but you take care of your own icons, and that shouldn’t even be debatable.

  21. Jerkface October 31st, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    No it doesn’t mean be stupid and throw money around (cough ALex cough), but you take care of your own icons, and that shouldn’t even be debatable.

    You take care of your icons when they are in their prime, but after that they need to be paid accordingly. In this case ‘taking care’ of icons is keeping them on the roster at all at reasonable salaries. They had a budget before the new CBA and it has only gotten worse with the new CBA, there was no room for Jeter to get 20 million dollar 4-5 year deals like people were throwing around. Just like there is no room for giving Mariano whatever he wants.

    They need to give these guys what they will accept. Which they should be doing anyways. Its always about what will the player accept, what will sway him from accepting another teams offer, and is this worth it? Not ‘how much do we pay as thanks for his prior services’.

  22. blake October 31st, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    @BloggingBombers: The Yankees have interest in Torii Hunter, a source said. Hunter is unlikely to get a qualifying offer, so he wouldn’t cost a draft pick.

  23. yankeefeminista October 31st, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Rosy, thanks for the info, but doubt we’ll have our power back on by then. Likely not even for AFL rising stars game, but good to see there’s coverage. We’ll see Montgomery, Romine, Adams. You’ll see Zunino. Also there are a couple AFL games tucker posted a few days ago. Good to see Dellin back pitching too.

    Nice roundup, Chad. I still think Flores is a keeper, and no surprises re: Ramirez.

  24. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    “but after that they need to be paid accordingly. ”

    Accordingly for what? What management decides is going to be a players future performance? It’s not an exact science, so when you have once in lifetime Icons of Jeter or Mo’s stature you err on the side of the Icon. Or you penny pinch, embarrass yourself and the organization and end up with a deal anyway. Just sign one less Mcghee, be classy and give that money to Mo.

    “Just like there is no room for giving Mariano whatever he wants.”

    Like Jeter, I believe Mo will also be reasonable. But Mo won’t take Cashman’s crap, he will just walk away. You’re not going to hear any shop around this time, I can guarantee that.

    “Its always about what will the player accept, what will sway him from accepting another teams offer, and is this worth it? ”

    I agree. Jeter and Mo have proved their worth over and over again. Mo is playing for the Yankees or retiring. I still think he is still a better pitcher than Soriano and should be paid accordingly. Of course he should not (and will not) ask for the years that Soriano wants.

  25. blake October 31st, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    @mlbtraderumors: Scott Boras Seeking Four Years For Rafael Soriano http://t.co/KBfdlSOe #mlb

    God luck with that Sori

  26. yankeefeminista October 31st, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Think they did fine with Jeter for present services , and he was one of the few players who put and will put fans in the seats.

  27. Jerkface October 31st, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Like Jeter, I believe Mo will also be reasonable.

    Jeter was unreasonable in his initial offer. Which is why it was good the Yankees held firm and only had a slightly bad contract on the books.

  28. yankeefeminista October 31st, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Mo won’t be disrespected; if he is, he’ll retire .

  29. blake October 31st, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    @mlbtraderumors: Ryan Madson Declines Mutual Option http://t.co/B14jixri #mlb

    Wonder what Madson will want…..

  30. comet October 31st, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I’m with JF here. I see no obligation to pay some players more than the market would for their services. It was as beneficial DJ to remain a Yankee as it was for the Yankees to retain him.

    The same is true of Mo. I think highly of both players, but think don’t think the Yankees should be held hostage by anyone.

    When people here get upset because one of their favourite players is disrespected because the Yankees didn’t pay them enough, those fans are disrespecting the the entire team because, yes indeed, the more a superstar makes, the less left for everyone else. There is a budget, otherwise you would have a fantasy team at Yankee Stadium for 81 games a year.

  31. blake October 31st, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    “Jeter was unreasonable in his initial offer. Which is why it was good the Yankees held firm and only had a slightly bad contract on the books.”

    Eh that’s how you bargain….. Shouldn’t have been made public and we wouldn’t even know what it was.

  32. blake October 31st, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I’m hopeful Mo will do a cheap deal for 2013 if he wants to play

  33. Tar October 31st, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    ” I see no obligation to pay some players more than the market would for their services. ”

    Some player are more valuable to the Yankees than they are to other teams.

  34. austinmac October 31st, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I agree with the concept of only paying market value, but the Jeter negotiations were not handled well. I think Tar’s larger point, and one close to my heart, is the foolishness financially to be short sighted on spending while killing the golden goose of winning.

  35. comet October 31st, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    “Some player are more valuable to the Yankees than they are to other teams.” and the Yankees are more valuable to some players than other teams.

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