Sunday, February 22, 2015

Trenton Thunder Announce 2015 Fireworks Show Dates

Press Release Header

New Friday Night Fireworks promotion highlights 26-show schedule

The Thunder today announced the schedule of post-game fireworks shows for the 2015 season. Friday night fireworks are back, and include six shows following Friday night games. 

"We're excited to bring fireworks to ARM & HAMMER Park on Friday nights this year," said Will Smith, General Manager of the Thunder. "Thunder fans have always showed how much they enjoy our fireworks shows, so it only made sense to add more to the schedule in 2015." 

The first show will take place on Saturday, April 18 after the game against the Portland Sea Dogs and run on select Thursday, Friday,Saturday and Sunday nights throughout the season. The final fireworks show of the season is scheduled to run on Sunday, September 6 after the final night game of the regular season against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. 

The dates below will feature a post-game fireworks show: 

April 18, May 1, 2, 14, 16, 21, 29, 30, June 6, 11, 18, 27, July 2, 3, 10, 11, 23, 25, August 6, 14, 15, 21, 22, September 3, 5, & 6. 

"Fans will be impressed by the shows we are preparing for 2015," said Smith. "We've always provided our fans with the best show in town, and we think our fireworks spectaculars continue that tradition."

Syndicated Sunday: Yankees Flex Financial Muscle in Other Ways

Originally written by Kiley McDaniel over on Fangraphs:

The Yankees have found new ways to exploit their financial advantage in recent years.  For a long time, they were the team spending the most money on big league payroll by a good margin, then other teams caught up after the addition of the luxury tax along with an Hal Steinbrenner being more focused on the bottom line than his father.  The Yankees never really blew things out in the draft when they had the opportunity, but now there are essentially hard caps on draft spending and extra picks are tougher to come by with recent changes to the CBA.

The Yankees saw these two market opportunities dry up while their revenues stayed high and they pinpointed the international market as a target.  As a result of spending nearly $30 million dollars on teenagers last summer, the Yankees now cannot sign a player for over $300,000 for the next two summers.  If they get lucky with some timing, they may still be able to make this one-year international blowout even more advantageous, but their competitive advantage has mostly passed in these three markets for the time being.

An Under-The-Radar Market

With limited avenues to spend their money, where have the Yankees turned now? Minor league free agents.  Starting today, free agents can sign with any club and most fans will focus on the splashy big money major league signings.  Sometimes, a former standout major leaguer that’s past him prime will sign a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and fans may hold out hope this player can regain past form.  Below even this radar are the often first time free agents with little to no big league service that are signed to minor league deals with Spring Training invites and little fanfare.  This is where the Yankees have been frustrating most of baseball.

Nearly every franchise has an internal policy for signing these players, with a hard cap for monthly salary over the five months of the minor league season.  These maximums are put in place to control costs and also to give executives a hard line to use in negotiations to make the process go more smoothly; there are clubs that will have dozens of negotiations happening at the same time, so hard-and-fast rules help filter out players that aren’t a fit.  This maximum ranges from $12,000 to $20,000 per month depending on the team.
The second tier of minor league free agents usually wait to see where the first tier signed and for how much money to then figure their market value and the best place to sign to maximize playing time and chance at a big league look.  Some teams will make exceptions and sign a player above their maximum for certain situations, like an experienced 3rd catcher to play in Triple-A with a good chance for a call-up if a rookie catcher falters in the big leagues, but this is the exception rather than the rule; it’s seen as a one-time big league expense.

Enter the Evil Empire

Minor league free agency was a pretty straightforward process until the past few years, when the Yankees starting spending way more money on these players than any other team was comfortable spending.  I was told last offseason that 3B Yangervis Solarte was a target for multiple teams in the minor league free agent market.  Both executives, analysts and scouts from different types of organizations had pinpointed Solarte as being one of the top tier minor league free agents at this point last year.  There wasn’t a huge bidding war for him alone, but multiple teams were calling his agent with offers on the first day of free agency.  This also happened with a couple dozen other players deemed to be top tier free agents.
Logic follows that in this sort of situation, Solarte would sign with one of the teams that spends up to $20,000 per month ($100,000 for the a full season in the minors).  The Yankees ended up signing him last offseason for $120,000 ($24,000 per month) with a split contract (meaning he’d make more than the MLB minimum if he is in the big leagues: $515,000 in this case instead of the $500,000 minimum), a Spring Training invite, provisions to leave for an Asian professional club during the year if he chooses and a guaranteed $66,000 salary ($13,200 per month) for the season even if he’s cut during Spring Training and he plays the whole season for another organization (or stays at home).

Rival clubs tell me that with other minor league free agents, the Yankees will routinely go up to $30,000 or $35,000 per month, include bonuses in addition to that salary, guarantee salaries (minor league salaries are not normally guaranteed like big league salaries) and offer bigger MLB salaries in split contracts.  For the 2014 season, the Yankees gave righty reliever Jim Miller a split contract worth $210,000 in the minors ($42,000 per month) and $525,000 in the majors with a Spring Training invite. He pitched 2.2 innings for the big league team and 57.1 in Triple-A last season.

For the 2013 season, the Yankees paid C Bobby Wilson $180,000 ($36,000 per month) with half of it guaranteed, along with a $675,000 big league split (which he never got called up to collect) and a Spring Training invite.  Wilson was the backup catcher in Triple-A Scranton that year and only collected 253 plate appearances.  A source tells me that at least one other club promised him a starting role in Triple-A with a good shot at some big league time for about half as much money; this sort of decision is a common one for minor league free agents, but the salary gap usually isn’t as big unless the Yankees get involved.

In addition, these high salaries set the player’s market higher in subsequent seasons. That 2013 deal with the Yankees was his Wilson’s first free agent deal and in 2014, he got a split $130,000/$600,000 deal with the Diamondbacks, a Spring Training invite and picked up 4 plate appearances in the big leagues in September.  For reference, in the six years of control before minor league free agency, monthly salaries max out at about $2,500 per month at the upper minors and closer to $1,500 at lower levels; each club has it’s own policy/scale for salaries by level for these players, though all the scales are similar.  If you’re a player that signed for little to no bonus as a amateur, being a middle to top tier minor league free agent is actually a chance to cash in and earn market value for the first time.

Why Just The Yankees?

An executive with a medium market club told me last year that his team had a target list of about a dozen minor league free agents to target on day one of minor league free agency and the Yankees signed about half of those players to salaries that his team couldn’t come close to matching.  Why don’t other teams spend what amounts to a trivial amount of money to get the minor league free agents that their scouts and analysts are telling them to target? I still haven’t gotten a satisfactory answer after asking a half dozen front office people.  As mentioned above, part of it is cost control and having limits in place to make the negotiation process go smoother and more quickly with dozens of players in play for each team at any given time.  The rest of it, as I’m told, are various versions of “this is the way things are done.”

One exec said if his team spent an extra $1 million to get all of their targets and none of those players ended up contributing to the big league team, it would open him up to scrutiny for taking money from another department, trying something different and wasting $1 million.  On average, most teams will get a couple useful big leaguers if they sign their dozen top targets, but risk aversion decision making, akin to how NFL coaches treat fourth down decisions, seems to be holding back even the most forward-thinking clubs in this area.

Limits, Risks & Rewards

Executives caution that there is a theoretical limit to how much a team can pay a minor league free agent, with speculation that both MLB and the Players’ Association would tell a club that wanted to pay a minor leaguer a $300,000 salary that he should just be given a major league deal to avoid creating a big/small market disconnect in Triple-A.  The Yankees haven’t gone that high yet, but they also don’t have much sustained competition in this market, so you’d have to think at some point this may become an issue if another team joins them.

Stockpiling deep upper minors rosters is the reason the Rule 5 Draft was created, but there is a way to work around these rules.  These big minor league deals are often signed after the early Rule 5 Draft in December; both Wilson and Solarte signed their contracts in January.  If the player is signed before the Rule 5 Draft, he could be taken by a team that doesn’t mind paying his big league salary, as happened in 2004 with Chris Gomez.  In Miller’s case, his minor league split was so high, the Yankees could feel safe that he wouldn’t be selected; Miller signed in November.

A Yankees source told me they could break even financially with a $500 million payroll expenditure (including luxury tax), so this minor league free agent expenditure is still a trivial amount of money for them, though it would be less trivial for a small market club.  Credit is still due to the Yankees for being open-minded enough to do the rational thing and spend their considerable resources in whatever way is available.  Not every team does this, normally for bureaucratic reasons; you’d be surprised how difficult it is to move a seven figure sum from one department to another even within baseball operations.

It’s peculiar to me that, for a small amount in the scope of player acquisition budgets, a club could almost surely get an additional big league contributor and very few clubs seem inclined to shift their strategy to do it.  In the case of the Yankees 2014 minor league free agent class, Solarte was good for the Yankees, then was half of what acquired Chase Headley for the 2014 stretch run, who himself created almost three wins in less than half a season with the Bombers.  The profit from just the one-year Solarte signing/trade transaction is about $10 million, or roughly enough to pay for this minor league free agent strategy for another ten seasons.

Greedy Pinstripes Top 28 Prospects List: #7

Prospects Month is in full swing and we're already up to our 7th best prospect in the farm system, Jacob Lindgren. Lindgren looks to be knocking on the door to the Bronx after being drafted with the Yankees first pick in the 2014 MLB First Year Players Draft. Lindgren has already been nicknamed the strikeout factory and I personally cannot wait to see him in the Bronx in 2015 and beyond. 

Here is the write up from Kyle McDaniel on Lindgren:

Current Level/Age: AA/21.9, 5’11/180, L/L
Drafted: 55th overall (2nd round) in 2014 out of Mississippi State by NYY for $1.018 million bonus
Fastball: 55/60, Slider: 60/65, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 45/50

Scouting Report: To give you an idea of how much Lindgren improved in his junior season at Mississippi State, I saw him pitch as a sophomore and he was so generic that I didn’t even pull out my camera to get a couple pitches to refer back to later.  He was a starter and mostly worked 87-90 mph with average stuff and some moxie. He was a 6th-10th round type prospect, maybe lower, but he noticed in side sessions, summer ball and scrimmages that he was more comfortable and threw significantly harder in short stints, sitting in the low-90’s on the Cape in short bursts. Lindgren went to his coaches and said he wanted to be relief only in his junior year and hit 96 mph in the fall before his draft spring, letting scouts know they had a new prospect to follow.

Lindgren’s numbers were completely stupid in relief for the Bulldogs: 55.1 innings, 23 hits, 25 walks, 100 strikeouts. He was sitting 91-94 and hitting 95 mph with a 65 slider, usable but rarely used changeup and average command. After signing, the Yankees sent him from Rookie ball to Low-A to High-A to Double-A, and Lindgren’s combined line continued being stupid: 25 innings, 12 hits, 13 walks, 48 strikeouts. In the span of a year, he went from generic pitchability lefty in the SEC to completely untouchable in Double-A and arguably the best relief prospect in the game. He also was part of the Mississippi State bullpen’s rap group The Bench Mobb (Lindgren’s rap name is Chunky) with predictable results at 1:55 of the track.

About the Ranking: I had Lindgren near the end of the top 10 this entire process, then a couple scouts told me to move Lindgren up and started asking me would I trade Lindgren for (some player I had below him). I had already thought about the value of starters/hitters versus relievers, but the didn’t realize that Lindgren isn’t just a reliever, but a slam-dunk big league contributor in 2015 that could be closer-level by the end of the year.  Mateo is ranked just below Lindgren and his most notable experience is a few weeks in instructs that we don’t even have stats from. Mateo will go to Low-A next year, with the hope that he’ll be big league ready in 3-4 years. Mateo’s upside is higher, but there’s waiting time, risk and very little other than raw tools to judge by. Lindgren may have racked up 5+ wins and be in his arbitration years before Mateo even makes it on the 40-man roster.

Summation: I feel like a Lindgren for Mateo trade this offseason, while obviously impossible, would reflect the higher-than-expected value we’re seeing the industry put on prospects that might be a 50 next year with six years of control.  It’s implicit in these lists that when players have the same grade or are within a few spots of each other, you can feel free to flip the order a bit, but I think this is where Lindgren belongs.

This means that 25 pro innings shot Lindgren from the 55th best prospect in his draft class to 15th or 20th. Prospect writers are hesitant to jump a player that much that quickly after a pretty comprehensive draft ranking process months earlier; this is a bias I talked about around the 16 minute mark in this week’s podcast that I’m trying to get past. Maybe his value craters next year and future draft studies just see him as a bust that looked good for a minute, but there’s significant trade value here and that’s the definition of a good pick: creating value.

FV/Role/Risk: 50, Late Setup/Closer, Low (2 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA/MLB, 2016: MLB

7. Jacob Lindgren
8. Ian Clarkin
9. John Ryan Murphy
10. Luis Torrens
11. Tyler Austin
12. Bryan Mitchell
13. Miguel Andujar
14. Eric Jagielo
15. Jake Cave
16. Austin DeCarr
17. Tyler Wade
18. Juan DeLeon
19. Dante Bichette Jr.
20. Domingo German
21. Slade Heathcott
22. Nick Rumbelow
23. Jose Ramirez
24. Ramon Flores
25. Gosuke Katoh
26. Chasen Shreve
27. Taylor Dugas

28. Johnny Barbato

Yankees will make A-Rod earn his playing time in 2015

Alex Rodriguez won't get special treatment from the Yankees this season. 

The 39-year-old infielder will have to earn his playing time in spring training, club manager Joe Girardi said Friday. 

Rodriguez, coming off a season-long suspension for steroid use, is expected to DH for the Yankees come April, and has been welcomed back by many of his teammates in recent weeks.

But Rodriguez is still a question mark after missing all but 44 games since the end of 2012, and Girardi says he will essentially be treated like a rookie over the next month. 

"He's on our roster, but you have to prove yourself, in a sense, for playing time and how you fit in," Girardi told ESPN New York
Rodriguez still has three years left on his contract -- worth a hefty $61 million.
He probably won't get a chance to start this season, seeing as the Yankees have already re-signed fellow third baseman Chase Headley this winter. Rodriguez has also had a pair of hip surgeries over the last few years, so health concerns could too arise. 
That doesn't seem to be the Yankees' biggest issue with him, though, and Girardi says they're just worried about his ability to compete.
"We really haven't seen him play in two years and we don't know exactly where he is at, so that's something he has to prove and earn," Girardi said.
The Yankees have reportedly considered trying Rodriguez out at first base this offseason -- something Girardi says he will make a decision on when the veteran arrives at camp. The two are said to have discussed the idea in the past, but nothing regarding it was finalized. 
Nonetheless, Girardi appreciates A-Rod's cooperation.

"Everything he has said, he has said he is willing to do anything to help us," Girardi said. "That's what you want with your players."

Meet a Prospect Esmil Rogers

Esmil Rogers is the latest arm to be thrown into the revolving door that is the Yankees bullpen. The Yankees acquired Rogers off waivers on July 31st from the Toronto Blue Jays. Scott Sizemore was released to give Rogers a 40 man roster spot and Zoilo Almonte was optioned back to Triple-A to make room on the 25 man roster for Rogers. Rogers is now a right handed option for Joe Girardi out of his bullpen so we might as well get to know him. This is Meet a Prospect, the Esmil Rogers edition.

Esmil Antonio Rogers was born on August 14, 1985 in the Dominican Republic. Rogers was signed as a amateur free agent in 2003 by the Colorado Rockies and wouldn't begin his professional career until he reached rookie league ball in 2006. Rogers was not long for the minor leagues as he was promoted to the big leagues for the Rockies in September of 2009 and made his major league debut on September 12, 2009. Rogers spent his 2010 season in Colorado as well and pitched in 28 games, eight of them being starts, going 2-3 with a 6.13 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP. Rogers was a start in Colorado in 2011 as well after he replaced Ubaldo Jimenez in the starting rotation and went 3-1 with a 6.33 ERA in April. Rogers would join Jimenez in Cleveland in 2012 when the Rockies traded him to the Indians for cash considerations after Rogers was designated for assignment. Rogers had a 0-2 record with an 8.06 ERA with Colorado in 2012 and went to Cleveland looking for a new start.

Rogers was well improved in Cleveland after getting out of Coors Field and went 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 53 innings and 44 games with the Indians. Rogers opened eyes up in Toronto and was traded to the Blue Jays in the offseason before the 2013 season for Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes. The first time Rogers would face his old team in Colorado he took a no hitter into the sixth inning and left the game with an 8-2 lead after 6.2 innings. After the game Rogers ERA was lowered to 1.71 and continued to have a great season for Toronto. Rogers pitched with Toronto until this season when he was designated for assignment after starting the 2014 season with a 6.97 ERA in 16 appearances. He cleared waivers and accepted his Triple-A assignment only to be designated again on July 27 without making another appearance with the team.

The Yankees claimed him and acquired Rogers on July 31st to be a part of their bullpen and hoping that another change of scenery will help the right hander. Rogers is back with New York for 2015 and comes to Spring Training working out as a starting pitcher. Good luck Esmil. 

Looking at the 2015 Draft: 7th Best Prospect

Continuing our look at the 2015 MLB First Year Players Draft we take a look at the #7 ranked prospect expected to enter the draft. As always we will include the mini scouting report from as we introduce the #7 prospect, Kolby Allard. Allard is a LHP from San Clemente High School in Califnornia. 

Here is the write up from

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60 | Overall: 55

While Allard may not be big in stature, he had a huge summer on the high school showcase circuit. The 6-foot, 170-pounder won MVP honors at the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego by needing just 12 pitches to strike out the side in the second inning. A month later, he pitched Team USA to a gold medal at the 18-and-under Pan American Championships in Mexico, fanning 17 of the 29 hitters he faced.

As a Southern California product who ranks as the best pitching prospect in the high school class, he's following in the footsteps of Brady Aiken. His size may prevent him from going No. 1 overall like Aiken did in 2014, but Allard has similar stuff.

A UCLA recruit, he has two plus pitches in his 92-94 mph fastball that tops out at 96 and a tight curveball. Allard's third pitch is a changeup that needs more work. He has an easy delivery that enhances his ability to command his pitches and his chances to remain a starter despite his smaller build.

7. Kolby Allard
8. Daz Cameron
9. Dansby Swanson
10. Ashe Russell
11. Justin Hooper
12. Carson Fulmer
13. Alex Bregman
14. Nick Plummer
15. Trenton Clark
16. Ian Happ
17. Phil Bickford
18. Mike Nikorak
19. Kyle Cody
20. Cody Ponce
21. Riley Ferrell
22. Chris Betts
23. James Kaprielian
24. Jake Lemoine
25. Beau Burrows
26. Richie Martin
27. Kyle Tucker
28. D.J. Stewart

CC Sabathia Should Emulate Andy Pettitte

The New York Yankees held their first workout for pitchers and catchers yesterday at Yankees Spring Training camp which jump started the speculation on certain members of the team in 2015, specifically the Yankees ace CC Sabathia. Sabathia has lost a ton of weight over the past few seasons and has also lost even more effectiveness and velocity. Another member of the Yankees went through this late in his career and will conveniently be honored in 2015, Andy Pettitte. If Sabathia could work with an emulate Pettitte the team would really benefit from it.

Later in Pettitte's career he learned how to hot his spots and pitch effectively to contact without his mid 90's fastball and devastating secondary pitches. Sabathia needs to back away from his thought process that he can blow people away with two strikes and learn to nip at corners and force bad swings. If CC can do that I think he can remain effective for the remainder of his contract, effective does not necessarily mean he can still be an ace, and that's the only way New York is headed back to a World Series any time soon.

This Day In New York Yankees History 2/22: Yankees Lose Johnny Damon

On this day in  2010 the Yankees lost their own free agent Johnny Damon when he agreed to a one year deal worth $8 million with the Detroit Tigers. Damon was 36 years old at the time and coming off a .282 with 24 home runs and a World Series championship in the 2009 season.

Also on this day in 2005 now deceased San Diego Padres broadcaster and former New York Yankee Jerry Coleman is selected to receive the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award. The then 80 year old broadcaster was the 1950 World Series MVP, played for teams like the Yankees, Angels, and Padres, and spent over 40 years in the booth as a play by play man.