January 29, 2007

THE GREAT WHITE WAY HOPE:

Categorizing Minor League Pitchers: Part One - The Starters (Rich Lederer, 1/29/07, Baseball Analysts)

I have listed the top 25 pitchers in the northeast quadrant by strikeout rate. Ages are as of July 1, 2007. Organizations, for the most part, are updated to include trades. Levels are based on classifications where the pitcher threw at least 50 innings in 2006. Stats have been combined for those who competed at more than one level, provided they pitched a minimum of 50 innings at each of the stops.

NORTHEAST QUADRANT (ABOVE-AVG K AND GB RATES)

PITCHER AGE ORG LEV K/BF GB%
Yovani Gallardo 21 MIL A+/AA 31.70% 47.14%
Philip Hughes 21 NYY AA 31.44 50.72
T. J. Nall 26 LAD AA 28.17 46.61
Wade Davis 21 TB A 27.82 48.25
Franklin Morales 21 COL A+ 27.37 53.18
Michael Bowden 20 BOS A 27.09 51.10
Dana Eveland 23 MIL AAA 26.42 53.05
Samuel Deduno 23 COL A+ 26.18 60.26
Chi-Hung Cheng 22 TOR A 25.84 49.48
Adam Miller 22 CLE AA 25.61 53.92
Sean Gallagher 21 CHC A+/AA 25.33 51.24
Carlos Carrasco 20 PHI A 25.21 48.23
Tom Gorzelanny 24 PIT AAA 25.20 45.88
John Bannister 23 TEX A+ 25.06 49.64
Jonathon Niese 20 NYM A 24.67 48.84
Mitch Talbot 23 TB AA 24.41 50.68
Cory Wade 24 LAD A 24.35 53.15
Renyel Pinto 24 FLA AAA 23.94 47.71
Ryan Tucker 20 FLA A 23.33 47.99
Kevin Roberts 23 MIL A 23.13 46.60
Justin Thomas 23 SEA A/A+ 23.01 51.02
Kason Gabbard 25 BOS AA/AAA 22.92 59.13
Adam Daniels 24 STL A 22.70 51.75
Jonathan Barratt 22 TB A+ 22.52 47.76
Zach Ward 23 MIN A 22.20 67.44

When separating the wheat from the chaff, it helps to look at age vs. level. Yovani Gallardo, Philip Hughes, and Sean Gallagher all pitched in Double-A as 20-year-olds. T.J. Nall pitched in Double-A as a 25-year-old. All else being equal, you take the younger pitcher every time. Nall isn't the only Dodgers hurler that needs to be discounted due to his age. Cory Wade spent the majority of the season pitching in Low-A as a 23-year-old. He was promoted to High-A (Vero Beach, Florida State League) and got clobbered (2-4, 8.24 ERA with 9 HR in 39.1 IP). Despite Wade's excellent K and GB rates at Low-A, he is NOT a legitimate prospect.

Gallardo won't turn 21 until next month, yet is about as polished and mature as any minor leaguer. Milwaukee's second-round draft pick in 2004 ate up hitters in High-A (6-3, 2.09 ERA) and AA (5-2, 1.63) although his K and GB rates dipped at the higher level. The righthander out of Mexico led the minors with 188 strikeouts in 155 combined innings while only allowing 104 hits and 6 HR. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he combines size with stuff (including a low-90s fastball, a slider, and changeup), command, and performance. Unlike Nall and Wade, Gallardo is the real deal.

Hughes, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound righthander, went 12-6 with a 2.16 ERA in 146 combined innings in the Florida State (A+) and Eastern (AA) Leagues. The first-round draft choice in 2004 was a dominant force down the stretch (5-0, 1.43 with 62 SO, 21 H, and 9 BB in 44 IP) and in the first game of the playoffs (13 punchouts in 6 IP vs. Portland, the team that won the EL championship). He throws a heavy two-seam fastball, a four-seamer that sits at 93-95, a plus curve, and is working on developing his changeup. Hughes will begin the season in Triple-A at the Yankees' new Scranton/Wilkes Barre affiliate and should reach the Big Apple no later than this summer.


New York Yankees Top Ten Prospects (Kevin Goldstein, 1/29/07, Baseball Prospectus)
Excellent Prospects
1. Philip Hughes, rhp
2. Jose Tabata, rf
Very Good Prospects
3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
4. Humberto Sanchez, rhp
5. Dellin Betances, rhp
Good Prospects
6. Kevin Whelan, rhp
Average Prospects
7. Tyler Clippard, rhp
8. J. Brent Cox, rhp
9. Ian Kennedy, rhp
10. Alberto Gonzalez, ss

1. Philip Hughes, rhp

DOB: 4/24/86
Height/Weight: 6-5/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2004, California HS

What he did in 2006: 1.80 ERA at High A (30-19-2-30), 2.25 ERA at AA (116-73-32-138)

The Good: The total package, making him the best pitching prospect in the game. His 92-96 mph fastball has good movement to go along with outstanding location, and his hard curveball gives him a second major-league-quality out pitch. His change-up is at least average, and has nice fade and deception. His size is ideal and his mechanics are nearly flawless.

The Bad: 2006 was Hughes' first season with no health problems, and he was treated with kid gloves at the end of the season. He's yet to prove that he can hold up under a full-season workload, although he was as dominant as ever at the end of the year.

The Irrelevant: In the first inning of games, opposing hitters facing Hughes hit .125 (11-for-88) with 34 strikeouts.

In A Perfect World, He Becomes: An absolute ace--a legitimate No. 1 on any team.

Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Low - The Yankees insist that they want Hughes to begin the year in Triple-A, but if he's lights-out in spring training, it will be hard to send him down. No matter what happens in March, he should be up before the All-Star break.

2. Jose Tabata, rf

DOB: 8/12/88
Height/Weight: 5-11/160
Bats/Throws: R/R
Signed: Venezuela, 2005
What he did in 2006: 298/377/420 at Low A (363 PA)

The Good: Plus hitting skills and a mature approach well beyond his years. With outstanding bat speed and excellent hand/eye coordination, Tabata projects through the roof offensively based on what he's already been able to do at such a young age. He's a tick-above-average runner and a solid outfielder with a good arm.

The Bad: While nobody questions Tabata's ability to hit for average down the road, his power projection is a matter of some debate. Some feel that his pure hitting skills are enough to project for plus power, with others are concerned that his smallish frame will limit him to no more than 15-20 home runs annually.

The Irrelevant: In 2006, Tabata hit .261 with the bases empty, and .331 with runners on base.

In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A star corner outfielder, but whether he competes for batting titles or slugging titles is still up in the air.

Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: High. Tabata will begin the season in the High-A Florida State League as an 18-year-old. There's no reason to rush him.


For all the big names and bigger contracts the Yankees have collected, you'd have to think their success this season will be determined to a staggering degree by whether Philip Hughes is ready to contribute at the major league level. No other player who may make their major league squad is likely to contribute more this year than he has in the past and most of the rest may decline significantly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 29, 2007 12:00 AM
Comments

While Hughes "develops" his changeup, Sanchez is completely polished and ready, courtesy of the Tigers. If his elbow is OK, he is the Yankees' destiny this year.

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 29, 2007 12:13 PM

Sanchez is Farnsworth or Proctor.

Posted by: oj at January 29, 2007 3:00 PM

Very good job in the article of analyzing the Yankee farm hands.

The Hughes injury history however is overrated. He was never hurt. The Yanks just wanted to slowly build up his innings pitched. Even this year, it's unlikely he'll contribute much to the big club. If he was a Sawx player he'd be thrown to the wolves in May, but the Yanks won't need him. He'll get a few starts in August and September w/ the big club and then be shut down.

Chamberlain and esp Betances are the players to watch this season. The first shouldn't be too far behind St. Philip. The latter should progress along the same track as Hughes, ending 2008 in AA and starting 2009 in AAA.

It's too early however to label Kennedy as avg. He could end up in the fery good category.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at January 29, 2007 11:25 PM

High school pitchers get hurt.

Posted by: oj at January 29, 2007 11:45 PM
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