Sunday, February 28, 2016

TGP Prospects Night Open Thread featuring Cito Culver

Cito Culver may be on his way out of the New York Yankees organization sooner rather than later. Culver will hold his final stand in 2016 with the organization as he runs out of minor league options and the options behind him get stronger and stronger. Once thought of as a top prospects Culver just never seemed to come around with bat unfortunately and is in danger of being overtaken by the likes of Jorge Mateo, Kyle Holder, Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada and others. 

In what could be Culver's penultimate stand we bring you this interview that was conducted in September of 2015. Enjoy because Prospects Month is almost over.

Three Yankees Prospects You May Not Know Yet But You Will

Every year we, the fans of Major League Baseball, enter the new season with a new set of expectations. Either we think our team is going to win it all, we think our team is going to take the next step towards the ultimate goal, we think we're one year closer to getting some of these clunky contracts off the books and we're one year closer to seeing our favorite prospect on the field wearing our favorite team's uniform. This is especially the case with prospects and it goes for the prospects we know but also the prospects we don't quite know yet. We all know by the now the names of Jorge Mateo, Robert Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian but do you know these three names? If you don't yet you likely will by the end of 2016.

Outfielder Carlos Vidal has been a member of the New York Yankees for more than two seasons now and at age 19 he is primed to break out in a big way as soon as 2016. In short season league's Vidal has hit .362 in two seasons and has had more walks than strikeouts in his professional debut. Vidal showed average but he also showed power hitting 15 doubles and nine home runs with the Pulaski Yankees last year. Vidal isn't a blue chip prospect by any means but he has the potential to have a long and promising career if he continues on the path and trend he is currently on.

Right-handed pitcher Joey Maher is another player that many probably never gave a second thought to when they noticed he was drafted in the 38th round of the 2011 season but he has done everything to make us all look like fools. Maher came out of the draft with a solid sinker and changeup combination but was derailed by injuries until the 2015 season when he finally stayed healthy enough to put it all together. When drafted Maher threw in the high-80 MPH range with a fastball and a curveball to compliment his sinker and changeup but recently Maher has seen an uptick in velocity hitting as high as 95 MPH consistently in 2015. Maher also made strides with his curveball last season making him a legitimate four-pitch pitcher going forward. Maher may start the season in Tampa or may head back to Charleston with the Riverdogs. 

The final prospect you may not have heard of yet but will by the time Prospects Month 2017 comes around is Simon De La Rosa. De La Rosa is a right-handed pitcher that has thrown plus stuff but like a ton of pitchers before him he lacks the control to put it all together. De La Rosa averages 95-97 MPH on his fastball and it has late life that resembles a bit of Mariano Rivera's famous cutter that he made his name on for all those years. De La Rosa has struck out 180 batters in his first 140 professional innings and possesses plus breaking stuff, especially for someone as young as he is, but the walks will always be the main concern for the Dominican-born right-hander. De La Rosa walked 37 batters in 53.1 innings this year but if he can cut that in half or more he may be something special that flies through the lower levels of the Yankees system this season. 

Gary Sanchez 2nd Best Prospect Catcher by ranked the Top 10 prospects at every position this offseason around the majors and Gary Sanchez made the list for catchers. Gary Sanchez is the second best prospect catcher in all of Major League Baseball according to the website and their list.

Here is the free write-up from on Sanchez:

2. Gary Sanchez, Yankees

Sanchez resuscitated his prospect stock last season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, and he made his big league debut in early October. He then showcased his huge power and cannon arm in the Arizona Fall League, pacing the circuit with seven home runs and a 62 percent caught-stealing rate. Despite Sanchez's improvement as a blocker and receiver last season, questions remain about whether he will be able to catch every day in the big leagues. However, there's little doubt that he's ready to make an impact at the plate.

And here is the Top 10 List originally seen HERE. 

1. Willson Contreras - Cubs
2. Gary Sanchez - Yankees
3. Jorge Alfaro - Phillies
4. Reese McGuire - Pirates
5. Tyler Stephenson - Reds
6. Elias Diaz - Pirates
7. Dom Nunez - Rockies
8. Jacob Nottingham - A's
9. Max Pentecost - Blue Jays
10. Aramis Garcia - Giants

TGP Prospects Month Top 29 Prospects List - #2 Jorge Mateo

Uh oh, I didn't follow the pack leader and put Jorge Mateo as the best and top Yankees prospect in the entire farm system. How many people do you think clicked off the site when they saw Mateo get less than first? I'll let you know tomorrow but really the top three are pretty interchangeable in my opinion so it's not meant to be a slap to Mateo. Mateo is great and he could be the Yankees best prospect and he may be ultimately. The thing with prospect lists though is it's all left up to interpretation. Some use the players ceilings as their main basis for the ranking and some factor in other factors like age, whether he was drafted out of High School or college and their proximity to the Major Leagues.

The latter is the reason for me having Mateo ranked #2 behind the obvious #1 prospect Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is in Triple-A and where Aaron Judge, a fellow RailRider, struggled Sanchez flourished. It's also worth mentioning that Sanchez flourished when he wasn't expected to. He was up to fill in for an injured Austin Romine and was expected to go back to Double-A when Romine returned, Sanchez made the Yankees give him a spot. He then got another opportunity to build his stock in the Arizona Fall League while Mateo is still in A-Ball.

A ton can happen between now and the time that Mateo presumably gets to the Major Leagues. Injuries, lack of production, who knows. If we were playing MLB The Show on Playstation Mateo is likely ranked higher because he is likely the better player but he's also the furthest away from the majors out of the Yankees Top 5. For that reason alone I place Sanchez ahead of Mateo, no disrespect intended. I love Mateo, but I love Sanchez too.

2. Jorge Mateo
3. Aaron Judge
4. James Kaprielian
5. Robert Refsnyder
6. Domingo Acevedo
7. Dustin Fowler
8. Wilkerman Garcia
9. Ian Clarkin
10. Brady Lail
11. Jacob Lindgren
12. Bryan Mitchell
13. Drew Finley
14. Mason Williams
15. Slade Heathcott
16. Abi Avelino
17. Hoy-Jun Park
18. Luis Torrens
19. Cale Coshow
20. Chance Adams
21. Miguel Andujar
22. Jonathan Holder
23. Tyler Wade
24. Nick Rumbelow
25.Jordan Montgomery
26.Trey Amburgey
27. Ben Gamel
28. Austin DeCarr
29. Thairo Estrada
30. James Pazos

Baseball Is Back, But Meaningful Stats Aren't

With Spring Training games right around the corner, I wanted to take this time to remind everyone not to get too worked up over Spring Training statistics.

"Baseball's back, baby!"

While most Yankees fans were disappointed with the season Chase Headley had in 2015, those that put any stock in Spring Training statistics were likely out-of-their-minds infuriated by the end of the season. That's because Chase finished the season batting a lowly .259, but in 21 Spring Training games that year he hit .305.

Speaking of Headley, he was actually tied with the team lead during the 2015 Spring Training with three home runs. One of the guys he was tied with is of no surprise... Alex Rodriguez. However, what if I told you that the two other players that also hit three homers during Spring Training 2015 were Stephen Drew and Chris Young?

One more bit of information regarding the Yankees' 2015 Spring Training...

Esmil Rogers pitched 15.1 innings and had a 2.35 ERA. But during the regular season his ERA was a bit higher. Okay, it was a lot higher... 6.27.

To really drive home the point that Spring Training statistics are a small step above "useless", I'm going to show you three non-Yankees who had great springs but poor regular seasons.

Taijuan Walker P SEA
2015 Spring Training: 6 GS, 25 IP, 3-0, 0.36 ERA
2015 Regular Season: 29 GS, 169.2 IP, 11-8, 4.56 ERA

2015 Spring Training: 74 PA, .426/.446/.779
2015 Regular Season: 404 PA, .262/.300/.439

Mike Zunino C SEA
2015 Spring Training: 51 AB, 7 HR, 1 HR/7.3 AB, .353/.431/.882 
2015 Regular Season: 350 AB, 11 HR, 1 HR/31.8 AB, .174/.230/.300

"Did he really have to show two players from the Mariners?"

Yes, it's great to watch baseball again, however we have to keep in mind that Spring Training games are nothing more than glorified practices. Pitchers are working on new mechanics and/or new pitches, hitters are working on tweaks to their swings. Guys like Rob Refsnyder and Starlin Castro are going to be taking reps at third base, a position pretty much unknown to them.

Even managers will dial things back a bit. For instance, instead of calling for a hit and run in some situations, they're going to let things go so players can just take regular at bats.

So enjoy watching the games (I know I will). If you're lucky enough to go to some of those games I'll be extremely jealous of you. But whether Dustin Ackley hits .400 (career .244 hitter), Alex Rodriguez fails to hit a single home run (he led the Yankees will 33 last season), or Luis Severino gets rocked (led Yankee starters with an ERA of 2.89 last season), remember that what you're seeing then is probably not what you'll see later.

"But it's baseball!"

Meet a Prospect: Jonathan Diaz

The New York Yankees are doing anything and everything they can to prepare for the 2016 season. New York's plan seems to be to have as much depth and insurance as possible in the minor leagues while relying on the farm system, finally, while waiting out these long and bulky contracts that have hampered the organization for so long. In just a couple years the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia will be gone and the names of Luis Severino, Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will be leading the next Yankees dynasty. That's the plan anyway and the best plans need Plan B and Plan C, one of those Plan B's or Plan C's include the latest minor league signing, Jonathan Diaz.

This is Meet a Prospect: The Jonathan Diaz Edition. Jonathan Diaz was born on April 10, 1985 and spent his High School years at Coral Gables High School. While at Coral Gables Diaz played aside fellow Major League players Yonder Alonso and Eddy Rodriguez who watched Diaz finish his High School career with a strong .323 average in his senior season with six doubles and a home run. Diaz went to NC State to continue his baseball career but struggled in his freshman year. Diaz improved during his sophomore and junior years at NC State and caught the eyes of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12th round, 360 overall, in the 2006 MLB Draft.

Diaz was placed at the shortstop position to begin his professional career and spent the 2006-2012 seasons in the minor leagues with varying degrees of success for Toronto. Diaz was never known for his bat but it was his defense that led Toronto to invite him to Spring Training camp in 2011 where he almost made the team as one of the final cuts. Diaz was back with the club in the spring of 2012 as well but was cut after just 23 games despite hitting .405 with seven RBI and nine runs scored. Diaz finished the 2012 season still in the Toronto minor league system and never made the Major Leagues as a member of the Blue Jays.

Diaz moved on from Toronto after the 2012 season and moved to their AL East rival Boston Red Sox after signing a minor league deal on December 16, 2012. Another trip to spring training in 2013 and another late cut and assignment to the minor leagues. Boston did come calling on June 29, 2013 and promoted him to the Major Leagues to make his MLB debut against the team that drafted him, the Toronto Blue Jays. Diaz was called up because Brock Holt and Stephen Drew were injured while Will Middlebrooks was ineligible to get called back up due to the 10 day rule. Diaz lasted until July 6 of that season when Holt was ready to return and Diaz was sent back to Triple-A.

Diaz returned to Toronto for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and began the 2014 season with the big league club after a Jose Reyes injury gave him the opportunity. Diaz received his 2013 World Series ring during that 2014 season and was up and down between the minor leagues and major leagues before ultimately being designated for assignment. Diaz came back to the team in 2015 to give the team some insurance for Reyes and once again a Reyes injury allowed Diaz a trip back to the Major Leagues. Diaz appeared in just seven games in 2015 and batted .154 with two RBI before hitting free agency once again.

Diaz will now look to latch on with the New York Yankees during the 2015 season after signing a minor league deal with the club. Diaz will look to win a job in spring training or start the season in Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. Welcome to the organization Jonathan and welcome to the family as well.

Meet a Prospect: Tyler Olson

The New York Yankees were in a pretty unique situation up until this week that gave the team the freedom to basically do as it pleased this offseason. The team was able to not only clear enough roster spots to accommodate all the 60 Day DL players on the roster but the team cleared a couple extra spots as well for flexibility this winter. Some of that flexibility allowed the team to add players like Lane Adams, Ronald Torreyes and a former member of the Seattle Mariners.... Tyler Olson. This is Meet a Prospect: The Tyler Olson Edition.

Tyler Ray Olson was born on October, 2 1989 in the state of Washington where he spent his High School days attending University High School in Spokane Valley, Washington. Olson then went to Gonzaga University and pitched for the Gonzaga Bulldogs baseball team pitching five years there including a redshirt season in 2010 due to a shoulder subluxation. Olson did enough to catch the attention of the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 MLB First Year Players Draft as the A’s drafted him in the 17th round. Olson did not sign and returned to Gonzaga for his senior year at Gonzaga posting a9-4 record with a 2.48 ERA in 101.2 innings. Olson won the West Coast Conference’s Pitcher of the Year Award which led the Seattle Mariners to draft him 207th overall in the 2013 MLB Draft with their seventh round pick. Olson almost immediately signed and began his professional career inside the Mariners organization and farm system.

Olson stayed in the Mariners farm system for two years before being invited to Spring Training camp in 2015 where he made Seattle’s Opening Day roster. Olson would injure his knee in May and land on the disabled list and when he came back he found himself without a spot in the Mariners bullpen. Olson was optioned back to Triple-A when he was activated and that’s where he stayed for the remainder of the season before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 18, 2015 for cash considerations. Olson lasted all of three weeks with the Dodgers before being designated again and traded again, this time to the Yankees.

Let me be the first to welcome you not only to the team but to the organization and most importantly to the family as well. Enjoy your stay Tyler!

This Day in New York Yankees History 2/28: Cocaine is a hell of a Drug

On this day in 2000 Yankees outfielder and DH Darryl Strawberry is suspended for one year after testing positive for cocaine last month. Bud Selig would not allow Strawberry back early from the suspension based on good behavior. This would essentially mark the end of Strawberry's career.