Archive for June 2010

Snubbed by fans, Laird still an EL All-Star

June 29, 2010

Fortunately for Thunder third baseman Brandon Laird, fans do not get the only vote for the Eastern League All-Star Team.
Had that been the case, arguably the league’s midseason Most Valuable Player would not have made the roster.
Despite leading all of professional baseball with 79 runs batted in and ahead of all EL players in home runs (19), hits (90), extra-base hits (39), runs scored (60) and total bases (169), Laird needed a push from the media, league managers and officials to make the Eastern Division squad.
Laird, a 27th round draft pick of the Yankees in 2007, is on pace to obliterate Raul Gonzalez’s franchise record for RBIs (103) set in 1999 and could challenge Shea Hillenbrand’s 1999 hit mark of 171.
The slugging third baseman will be joined on the Eastern Division team by catcher Austin Romine, unbeaten starter David Phelps and right-hander Lance Pendleton.
The 2010 EL All-Star Game will be held July 14 at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, Pa.
Earlier this season, Laird (.297) became just the second player in Thunder history to hit for the cycle and has twice hit a three-run home run and a grand slam in the same game.
Of the four players representing Double-A Trenton, only Romine and Phelps were selected via fan balloting.
Romine is hitting .290 with five home runs, 41 RBIs and a team-high 20 doubles and was regarded as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America prior to the season. However, some feel Romine has surpassed Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero for top prospect status and he is expected to be targeted around the league in the event the Yankees choose to upgrade their roster with another starting pitcher (Cliff Lee?) on or before the July 31 trade deadline.
Romine has two separate hitting streaks of 10 or more games this season, including a team-high 14-game streak earlier in the year, and was selected last week to represent Team U.S.A. at the XM Futures Game in Anaheim July 11.
With a perfect 6-0 record and a 2.04 ERA _ second best in the Eastern League _ the right-hander Phelps assumed the role of Trenton staff ace once Christian Garcia was lost for the year in the season-opener against Erie.
Phelps leads the EL with 84 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .199 batting average, which also is tops in the league.
The Yankees’ 14th round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, Phelps has not lost since August 18, 2009 for Class-A Tampa.
Garcia tearing a second elbow ligament since 2007 opened the door for Pendleton, who has taken full advantage with five wins in his last six decisions and a 3.70 ERA in 15 starts.
Pendleton, a fourth-round pick out of Rice University, has delivered six or more innings in five of his last seven outings and is second on the staff behind Phelps in innings pitched (80.1) and strikeouts (71).
Each all-star roster consists of 24 players, including at least three players from each of the Eastern League’s 12 teams. At least one position player and one pitcher from each team were selected by fans through online and stadium balloting.
The remaining selections were made through voting by league media, managers and officials.
The Thunder tied a team record by sending five players to last year’s EL all-star game at Waterfront Park.
Of the five only one, reliever Josh Schmidt, is still at Double-A.


Can Brandon Laird be stopped?

June 24, 2010

Brandon Laird

It is now safe to assume Thunder third baseman Brandon Laird no longer has to worry about the Yankees putting him on the 40-man roster before the December Rule 5 Draft.
For the second time in 2010, Laird drove in seven runs with a grand slam and a 3-run home run as Trenton won its fourth straight game and extended its lead in the EL Eastern Division to 1.5 games over New Hampshire with an 11-2 dusting of Erie today at Jerry Uht Park.
Laird also roughed up Erie May 26 at Waterfront Park when he became just the second player in franchise history to hit for the cycle.
Laird, a 27th-round draft pick, now leads the Eastern League in home runs (18), RBIs (76) and total bases (158) in just 71 games.
Pretty sick.
No disrespect to catching prospect Austin Romine, but if anyone on the Thunder deserved a roster spot on Team U.S.A. for the July 11 XM Futures Game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim it is Laird.

World Series bling clipped from Thunder office

June 24, 2010

We first heard about this earlier yesterday, but here is today’s story by The Times of Trenton regarding the stolen World Series ring belonging to Thunder clubhouse manager Tom “Tonto” Kackley.
The photo of the Yankees’ 2009 World Series ring is courtesy of Getty Images.

TRENTON — An official New York Yankees World Series ring reported to be worth nearly $10,000 was stolen from the offices of the Trenton Thunder last week, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office said yesterday.
The ring, which belonged to an employee (our man Tonto), was left unattended in a desk drawer at the team’s Waterfront Park offices.
The Thunder are a minor-league affiliate of the Yankees.
According to authorities, the theft occurred between 1 p.m. on June 17 and 1 a.m. June 18.
The diamond-encrusted rings were distributed to all full-time Yankee employees following the team’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 World Series. It is described as blue and silver in color and prominently features a diamond-studded Yankees insignia on its face.
Anyone with information relating to the theft is asked to call Officer Chris Drew with the Sheriff’s Office at (609) 989-6111.
According to today’s Trentonian, the theft in Trenton “comes on the heels of news out of Tampa, Fla., where a coach for the Staten Island Yankees reported his World Series ring stolen earlier this month.
In that case, pitching coach Patrick Daneker told police that his championship ring was stolen by two women he had brought back to his hotel room after a night of drinking.”
Now that’s a tip!

Yanks’ prospects & Futures Game = Big Leagues

June 23, 2010

Austin Romine

Few scouts would doubt that Thunder catcher Austin Romine and right-hander Hector Noesi have the skill set to reach the big leagues.
That projection gets even more favorable when the success rate of Trenton players selected to participate in the Major League Baseball Futures Game is factored into the equation, as all-but top prospect Jesus Montero (2009) have reached the majors since 2003.
Romine and Noesi now find themselves on a similar path as both players, along with Thunder manager Tony Franklin, will be at Angel Stadium of Anaheim July 11 when the top prospects in all of Minor League Baseball are showcased live as part of the XM Futures Game on ESPN2 and MLB.TV beginning at 6 p.m.
The 21-year-old Romine, a southern California native, entered this season as the Yankees’ No. 2-rated prospect according to Baseball America. The Yanks’ second-round draft pick in 2007 currently is hitting .286 with four home runs and a team-high 19 doubles.
“It’s cool because I get to go home,’’ Romine said. “I grew up 15 minutes from Anaheim (in Lake Forest, Ca.), so that was where I went to watch Major League Baseball. I’m going to have a lot of family there, which will be nice. Playing on the east coast my family doesn’t get to see me play so that’s something I’m really happy about. This is big for my parents.’’
Noesi, 23, has been impressive since being summoned from Class-A Tampa last month and is 3-1 with a 2.13 ERA. He has 34 strikeouts in 38 innings, including a 10-strikeout performance on June 6 against Richmond to match a career-high.
Romine, who has separate hitting streaks of 14 and 17 games this season, will play for Team U.S.A. Noesi will pitch for the World Team.
Back for a fourth season at Double-A, Franklin is making his third appearance on U.S. roster after previously representing the Thunder in 2007 and 2009.
“You’ve got the best talent in the Minor Leagues and it is such an honor,’’ Franklin said. “To be in that setting, at a major league stadium, the feeling is just fantastic.’’
Noesi and Romine bring to 14 the number of Thunder players to appear in the Futures Game.
Since 2003, Yankees’ farmhands Chien-Ming Wang, Dioner Navarro, Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ramiro Pena have played in the Futures Game and have reached the major leagues.
Over 200 players who have participated in the first 11 Futures Games are now on major league rosters, including 62 that have competed in both the Futures Game and the MLB All-Star Game.
Last season a record 30 major league all-stars were alumni of the Futures Game. The previous mark of 23 was set in 2008.


Sun Woo Kim (RHP)……………….1999
Tomakzau Ohka (RHP)……………1999
Luis Garcia (INF)………………….2001
Jorge De La Rosa (LHP)………….2002
Seung Song (RHP)………………..2002
Chien-Ming Wang (RHP)………….2003
Dioner Navarro (C)………………..2003
Robinson Cano (INF)……………..2004
Phil Hughes (RHP)……………….. 2006
Joba Chamberlain (RHP)………….2007
Ramiro Pena (INF)………………..2008
Jesus Montero (C)………………..2009
Austin Romine (C) ………………..2010
Hector Noesi (RHP)……………….2010
Tony Franklin (MGR)…………..2007, 2009, 2010

Amaro: Trading Lee messed with Phils’ karma

June 17, 2010

Ruben Amaro, left, regrets dealing Cliff Lee

We’ve made our feelings about the Cliff Lee trade pretty clear over the last seven months.
OK, maybe not ever.
Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell was bad.
Steve Carlton for Rick Wise was worse, and Heathcliff Slocumb to Seattle for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe helped turn the Boston Red Sox into world champions.
The Cincinnati Reds sending Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas in 1965 has to be a top-five clustershag, as Robinson immediately won the AL MVP award, made six all-star games and later captured the triple crown.
But sending Lee packing was dumb nonetheless.
So, after all these months, it is nice to see Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro finally admit that dealing Lee to the Mariners in the three-way trade that brought him Roy Halladay damaged his struggling club.
On a cosmic level, anyway.
The GM who barely blinked at handing first baseman Ryan Howard a five-year, $125 million extension before his existing deal was even an issue, was asked by Angelo Cataldi and the Morning Team at 610 WIP in Philly if sending Lee away in order to save $9 million and stay within budget damaged the Phils’ winning karma. Click here for the audio.
“If that’s what happened, and I believe in karma, if that was the deal, then I’ll blame myself for the woes,” Amaro said.
“I’m the guy at the helm here, so if people want to blame, they can blame me. Whoever said that may very well be right. I hope they’re not.”
The struggling Phillies enter play tonight at Yankee Stadium with a 33-30 record, 3 1/2 games behind in the National League East.
Fearful Lee would leave after the 2010 season as a free agent with nothing but draft compensation coming back in return, Amaro traded Lee to Seattle for minor leaguers J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.
Many, including BareBones, contend that pairing Lee with Halladay and an improved Cole Hamels would have made the Phillies virtually unbeatable down the stretch and in the postseason.
Yet, Amaro insists on standing behind the move.
Karma be damned.
“I think it was the right thing to do for the organization,” Amaro said. “Might I feel differently if we are not playing in the playoffs and getting to the World Series? Maybe. But I think it was the right thing for our organization.”
The Phillies are believed to be interested in re-acquiring Lee, whom the Mariners are shopping since he is not likely to re-sign with the Mariners.
Such a move would cost Amaro another trunk load of prospects from a farm system already thinned by trading for Lee at last season’s trade deadline, and then having to part with stud pitching prospect Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, among others, in the three-way deal with Seattle and Toronto.
And it was all so avoidable, as Lee was happy in Philadelphia and was beloved by fans.
Plus, the guy kicked ass.
His performance against the Yankees in the ’09 World Series was one of the best I’d ever seen on a big stage.
Amaro did admit he is looking to “shake things up.”
Whether such a shake up involves Lee in the days leading up to the July 31 deadline remains to be seen.
“If I could push a button and change things, I would,” Amaro said. “I don’t know what button to push other than the one that says, ‘Go out there and continue to work hard and play and we’re going to get this thing turned around.’ If I start not believing that, then you may see some change.”

Seattle scouts descend on Yanks’ affiliates

June 8, 2010

Cliff Lee

George King III, Yankees beat writer extraordinaire for the NY Post, is reporting that the Seattle Mariners have been sweeping the Yanks farm system since last week evaluating prospects in the event they can swing a trade involving former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee by the July 31 trade deadline.
The Mariners, per-King, recently had scouts watching high-A Tampa and low-A Charleston. According to colleague Josh Norris of Minor Matters two more Seattle reps, including former Trenton Thunder manager Bill Masse, are in attendance tonight at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium charting the Yanks’ Double-A players.
Lee, a free agent at the end of the season, was dealt to the Mariners as part of the three-team trade in the off-season that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies and Kyle Drabek, among other Phillies’ prospects, to Toronto.
Lee is not expected to re-sign with the Mariners.
If the Yankees are interested, and there is no reason to think they wouldn’t be, the price will be stiff.
Expect stud catching prospect Austin Romine and right-hander Hector Noesi, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week, to top the Mariners’ wish list.

2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft

June 7, 2010

Rounds 1-5 for the Mets, Phillies and Yankees


1st round/32 overall
Christopher “Cito” Culver, SS, Irondequoit High
Rochester, N.Y.

Very interesting pick.
In fact, Baseball America went so far as to call it “stunning,” as the widely respected publication and its team of scouts, analysts and amateur baseball veterans had Christopher “Cito” Culver rated No. 168 on its big board.
However, Yankees’ vice president of amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer essentially called his pick a no-brainer during an interview with Bryan Hoch at mlb/
“We were able to draft a very athletic kid who can play a good shortstop,” Oppenheimer said. “He has a plus arm, is a solid runner, and is an excellent hitter. He’s a player we are happy to have. It was an easy decision for us.”
Culver, at 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, is a raw athlete and switch-hitter, but there are questions about his effort. Has gap power with above average speed. Had eight errors in 120 total chances (.933 fielding percentage). Is committed to the University of Maryland.
Some feel the Yankees will move Culver to center field in the future, and in another wrinkle the Yankees’ PR staff referred to him as a right-handed pitcher. He did pitch for Irondequoit and flirted with speeds of 94-96 mph on the radar gun while batting .561 with 10 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 38 RBIs and 20 walks in 22 games as a senior.
The last time the Yankees took a high school shortstop with their first pick overall was in 2005 with the selection of C.J. Henry, who was an unmitigated disaster at No. 17 overall and a signing bonus of $1.6 million. Henry hit just .222 and made 57 errors for the Yanks and Phillies’ organizations before quitting baseball. He now plays guard for the University of Kansas basketball team.
The Yankees dipped into the high school ranks for their first pick for the second straight year.
Oppenheimer went with Texas outfielder Slade Heathcott at No. 29 overall in 2009.

2nd round/82 overall
Angelo Gumbs, SS, Torrance (Ca.) High

Incredibly, the Yankees went with a high school shortstop with their second-round pick (No. 82 overall) when Oppenheimer lifted the veil on Torrance (Ca.) prep star Angelo Gumbs.
Worried about replacing Derek Jeter much?
I mean, wow.

3rd round/112 overall
Robert Segedin, 3B, Tulane University

4th round/145 overall
Mason Williams, CF, West Orange (Fla.) High

5th round/175 overall
Thomas Kahnle, RHP, Lynn University


1st round/27 overall
Jesse Biddle, LHP, Germantown (Pa.) Friends

The Phillies stuck to their draft blueprint and went with a high school kid, this time a local pitcher from nearby Germantown Friends. Biddle, 18, is very athletic at 6-6 and 225 pounds with a low 90s fastball with movement, although there is a report that Biddle reached 96 mph this spring.
Biddle was projected as a second-rounder or as high as a “sandwich pick” on some draft boards, but at No. 27 and with big, strong left-handed pitchers always at a premium, especially in this draft, the pick makes sense as he likely would have been gone by the time the Phils picked again a No. 77.
Was 9-2 with a save and a 1.06 ERA in 2010. Biddle allowed just nine earned runs, 21 hits and 29 walks in 59 1/3 innings with 140 strikeouts. Committed to the University of Oregon.

2nd round/77 overall
Perci Garner, RHP, Ball State

3rd round/108 overall
Cameron Rupp, C, Univ. of Texas

4th round/141 overall
Bryan Morgado, LHP, Univ. of Tennessee

5th round/171 overall
Scott Frazier, RHP, Upland (Ca.) High


Selection: 7th overall
Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina

Harvey is a big kid (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) with a big fastball (92-97 mph) and a power slider with good control. Projected as a front-of-the-rotation starter in the mold of Mike Pelfrey, who went 9th overall in 2005. Was 7-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts (90 innings) for the Tarheels. Struck out 93 with 32 walks and six home runs allowed. Strikeout-to-walk ratio of 254 to 121 over his three-year career. Average change-up. Drafted in the third-round by the Angels in 2007, but did not sign as agent Scott Boras advised Harvey to attend UNC instead.
“This pick goes in line with what we feel is important — we talk about pitching, we talk about defense, we talk about speed,” general manager Omar Minaya told The Associated Press. “This pick goes in line with what we’re trying to build here. To be able to bring Matt Harvey aboard is trying to stay on that focus, especially with our ballpark.”
Sign-ability often is an issue with any Boras client, but it is difficult to imagine the Mets, in dire need of more young pitching, going cheap here and letting Harvey get away. It is even harder to imagine Harvey turning down a top-heavy offer from a major market team and rolling the dice by returning to Chapel Hill for his senior season.

3rd round/89 overall
Norman Forsythe, C, Univ. of Tennessee

4th round/122 overall
Cory Vaughn, CF, San Diego State

5th round/152 overall
Matt Den Dekker, CF, Univ. of Florida