Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Talking turkey ... and Roy Halladay

Hope everybody had a happy thanksgiving, but that's over now. It's time to get back to discussing baseball's hot stove, which right now should be getting close to a rolling boil in advance of next month's winter meetings in Indianapolis.

Obviously Roy Halladay is the biggest name on the block, as he was back in July, when he was first dangled by the Jays and general manager J.P. Ricciardi. Ricciardi is out now, leaving new helmsman Alex Anthropoulos in the same pickle Twins G.M. Bill Smith found himself in with Johan Santana two offseasons ago. Namely: a new G.M. with an ace in his prime one season away from free agency.

And, just as was the case in 2007, the two biggest suitors are the Yankees and Red Sox -- both of whom could easily afford to ink the ace to the extension he so richly deserves.

Because this is a minor league blog for the most part, let's run down the list of prospects each team could dangle to help complete their Roy Story.


1. Casey Kelly SS/RHP: After the deal for Victor Martinez in July purged their system of prospects Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, Kelly's status jumped. A product of the 2008 draft, Kelly can play a legitimate big league shortstop -- with enough bat skills to make good, consistent contact, and can hit the low-90s on the radar gun.

2. Ryan Westmoreland OF: A burner in center field, the Red Sox refused to part with Westmoreland in the Martinez deal. With Lowell this season, the 19-year-old put up a .296/.401/.885 line with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and 19 steals in as many chances. For the Jays, who would like to be rid of Vernon Wells sooner rather than later, Westmoreland would be a nice seed to plant down on the farm.

3. Clay Buchholz RHP: We all know the deal on Buchholz: Prized prospect, big curveball, devastating change-up, no-hitter already on his resume, still just 25 years old. Down the stretch in '09, Buchholz seemed to turn a corner, and posted the best start the Sox had during their short playoff stint. Parting with an ace will be hard for the Jays, but a potential ace-in-the-making like Buchholz could certainly soften the blow.

4. Daniel Bard RHP: After the B.J. Ryan experiment went bust, the Jays have been looking for a closer extraordinaire to hand the ball to at the end of games. The 24-year-old Bard, with his 100-mph fastball, may -- in time -- be just the man the Jays are looking for. I could quote many, many stats to exhibit Bard's excellence, but instead I'll give you just one: In 49.1 innings with Boston this season, he fanned 63 hitters.


1. Jesus Montero C: By now, everyone who follows either the Yankees or the Thunder knows Montero's name. He's the young, soft-speaking catcher with the loud bat who has wowed scouts and fans alike wherever he goes. Combined between Tampa and Trenton this season Montero hit .337/.389/.951 with 17 home runs, 70 RBIs and just 47 strikeouts in 347 at-bats. He will be a part of any deal the Yanks can spin to get Halladay.

2. Austin Jackson OF: As referenced with Westmoreland, if the Jays are going to eventually get rid of Wells in center, they're going to need a replacement. Jackson could be that guy. He hit an even .300 this season in the International League, but with diminished power that could -- and should -- return as he matures as a hitter. He plays an excellent center field and boasts an above-average arm.

3. Phil Hughes and/or Joba Chamberlain RHPs: Like Buchholz, most -- if not all -- baseball fans know the names Chamberlain and Hughes. They're the starters turned relievers -- for now -- who helped the Yankees win their 27th World Series in 2009. Both boast above average fastballs and premium offspeed pitches that help them dominate hitters. Best of all, neither pitcher is 25. Whether their futures are in the 'pen or as starters, both seem to have excellent careers ahead of them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jose Valdez siigns with Astros

Jose Valdez, who went 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 10 saves in 38.1 innings with the Thunder this season, has signed with the Astros, according to Brian McTaggart of Valdez, 25, was a minor league free agent who also spent time with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. Overall, Valdez was 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 57.1 innings in 2009.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yankees Minor League Free Agents

These players have spent six seasons in the minor leagues with one organization, or were signed to a season-long contract, and have elected free agency

RHP: Paul Bush (Trenton), Michael Gardner (Trenton), Justin Pope (Trenton), Humberto Sanchez (S-WB), Jay Stephens (Trenton), Jose Valdez (S-WB)
C: Brian Peterson (S-WB), Chris Stewart (S-WB)
3B: Eric Duncan (S-WB), Carlos Mendoza(Trenton), Cody Ransom (S-WB), Marcos Vechionacci (Trenton)SS: Doug Bernier (S-WB)
OF: Edwar Gonzalez (Trenton), Freddy Guzman (S-WB), Richie Robnett (Trenton), John Rodriguez (S-WB)

Of the 17 players listed here, two are coaches within the system (Mendoza, Pope), three were acquired by the Yankees midseason (Bush, Robnett, Guzman) and two will get World Series rings (Guzman, Ransom).

There's gonna be a few changes around here ...

OK, so it's been a while since I've spoken to you last, but there's a reason. I've been thinking long and hard about how to make this blog a better place for the readers. Here's what I've come up with: Instead of focusing mostly on major league baseball, I'm going to stick to what I know (and have sources inside/access to), and that is minor league baseball.

In that vein, today we're going to take a quick look at how the Yankees players have done in the Arizona Fall League, and pass along a few things an American League scout said about a couple of the pitchers.

All of New York's players are on the Surprise Rafters, who, after a strong start, find themselves in the cellar of the of the AFL West, behind the Peoria Javelinas. On an individual level, however, there are certainly a few standouts.

First and foremost is outfielder Colin Curtis, who spent parts of this season and last with the Thunder. Overall, Curtis, who was a moderate power threat in Trenton, boasts a batting line .377/.456/1.122. Nearly half of his 26 hits have gone for extra bases (three home runs), and he's racked up 14 RBIs in the process.

Not bad for a guy who some project as a fourth outfielder at best.

The other outstanding Yankees performance belongs to third baseban Brandon Laird, who has not seen any time in Trenton yet, but could be there in 2010. After smacking 13 home runs all season with Tampa, the Cypress CC alumnus has six with Suprise. He's hitting .337/.406/1.046 with Surprise, a marked improvement that could be attributed to either small sample size or facing inexperienced (if talented) pitching.

On the pitching side, most believe the most talented of the Yankees crop is reliever Michael Dunn. In fact, one scout told me this morning that Dunn is going to be "better than Phil Coke" and could be a 7th-inning guy instead of just a situational left-hander.

A former outfielder, Dunn sits at around 93-94 with his fastball and pairs it with a good breaking pitch. He does tend to get into a bit of trouble with his control, but that should subside with experience.

Ian Kennedy, who missed most of 2009 recovering from an aneuyrsm in his pitching arm, has also gotten some innings under his belt in Arizona. With the Rafters, Kennedy has gone 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA. He's given up a hit per inning pitched, but has walked just five in 24 2/3 frames. A scout who saw Kennedy pitch says he is "100 percent recovered" from the surgery and looks the same as ever.

Zach Kroenke and Grant Duff are both also with Surprise, but neither has had spectacular results. Duff has a 2.89 ERA with five walks in 9 1/3 innings, and Kroenke has a 5.28 ERA and has allowed two home runs in 15 1/3 innings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some quick offseason doings

It's just two days after the World Series, but there already have been a few interesting moves made around the league. Here's a brief rundown.

- Earlier today, the Red Sox dealt two relievers -- Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez -- to the Marlins for outfielder Jeremy Hermida, a guy still trying to realize his loads of potential. This seems like an extension of the "Buy 'em cheap and hope they produce" strategy that stuck them with John Smoltz, Brad Penny, Rocco Baldelli and Takashi Saito. This time, though, Hermida is expected to be a backup.

- The Angels smartly re-signed outfielder Bobby Abreu to a two-year deal. Abreu had one of the most cost-effective seasons out there in 2009, going .293/.390/.825 with 15 HRs, 103 RBIs and 30 (!) SBs. Good job by Tony Reagins, Arte Moreno and company to get that done quickly. He will make $19 million over the next two seasons.

- The Rays dealt infielder Akinori Iwamura, largely rendered a spare part this season by the emergence of Ben Zobrist as an All-Star at second base. Tampa Bay shipped Iwamura to the pirates, receiving middle reliever Jesse Chavez in return.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What a Series

If you hadn't heard, the Yankees won their 27th World Series title last night. Some might even call it: 27th Heaven.

In any case, the Pedro vs. Pettitte matchup wasn't exactly the stuff of legend, but the Yankees stalwart did just enough to lead his team through 5 1/3 innings before handing the ball to Joba Chamberlain, Damaso Marte (whose brilliance in October-November came out of nowhere) and eventually Mariano Rivera, closer nonpareil.

Of course, there also was Hideki Matsui's absolute monster of a game. Six RBIs, tying Bobby Richardson's (who knew?) record, and coming a triple short of what would have been the first cycle in World Series history.

For me, the most gratifying part of this postseason has been the rebirth of Alex Rodriguez, finally getting the monkey (and N.Y. media) off his back. It had become extremely frustrating to defend why having the best player in baseball on your team is not a negative.

All the home runs (first instant replay home run in regular season and WS), RBIs and defensive plays when it mattered most made this one just a little more special.

Congrats to all the guys who got their first rings, and to the four who got their fifth.