Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Great night for the baby bombers

Brett Gardner, who had been displaced in center field by walk-off king Melky Cabrera, re-established himself last night as a force to be reckoned with at the top the Yankees lineup. The former Thunder center fielder went 5-for-5 with three singles, a triple and a home run as the Yanks pounded the Mets, 9-1, at Citi Field.

Similarly, Ramiro Pena, who just last year was manning shortstop at Waterfront Park, went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles, two runs scored and an RBI.

Francisco Cervelli couldn't keep the pace, however, and turned in an 0-for-5 performance.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pittsburgh, meet your future

This is Andrew McCutchen. Since the Pirates dealt Nate McLouth to Atlanta, he's been their starting center fielder. And while his teammates may have been holding candlelight vigils after McLouth was shipped away, the more common response in the home clubhouse at PNC Park might just be closer to "Nate who?" than anything else.

McCutchen, a 22-year-old from Fort Meade, Fla., it seems, is going a long way toward making fans it Pittsburgh joyful for the future, rather than wistful for the past.

In just 20 games in the bigs, McCutchen already is tied for the National League lead in triples, has a 14-game hitting streak, and last night notched a walk-off hit off of the Indians' Matt Herges.

Over the past decade or so the Pirates have made quite a few mistakes -- many of them spectacular -- when it comes to player personnel. McCutchen's early start certainly makes it seems as if they've begun to reverse that trend.

Futures Game

The rosters for the Futures Game, to be played in St. Louis on July 12, were announced today. Here is a breakdown of each the United States' pitchers and infielders. Outfielders tomorrow.



Madison Bumgarner LHP, SF: A fireballing left-hander, Bumgarner has again and again flashed the potential the Giants saw in 2007, when they drafted him 10th overall. His strikeouts are down this season, but his ERA is still stellar (1.88), and the opposition is batting just .221 against him between High-A San Jose and Double-A Connecticut.

Kyle Drabek RHP, PHI: Son of former Major Leaguer Doug Drabek, Kyle has done much to prove that he is more than just a famous name. After missing most of last season with Tommy John surgery, Drabek has been a buzzsaw through the competition. In 87 2/3 innings between two levels, he has fanned 91, held hitters to just a .221 average and allowed an astounding one home run.

Danny Duffy LHP, KC: This 20-year-old Royals prospect has dominated with the Wilmington Blue Rocks so far this season, especially against lefties. Duffy has lit up fellow southpaws to the tune of a 1.96 ERA. Overall, Duffy is sporting a better than 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Casey Kelly RHP/SS, BOS: Just when he thought he was out, the Futures Game pulls him back. Kelly was supposed to spend the second half of this season as a shortstop after working as a pitcher over the first half. With Greenville and Salem, Kelly put up a 1.64 ERA and a .187 batting average against. He wants to try to hit, though, and the Red Sox are willing to let him try.

Mat Latos RHP, SD: I first heard of this guy when I covered the Eugene Emeralds, the Padres' Northwest League affiliate, in 2006. This season between Fort Wayne and San Antonio, Latos has impressed, striking out 64 in 58 1/3 innings while allowing just 12 bases on balls. San Diego is hurting for pitching, and Latos could be just the guy to help get the franchise back on the right track.

Brad Lincoln, RHP, PIT: Considering they took Lincoln while Brandon Morrow, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer were still on the board, the Pirates had better hope Lincoln doesn't turn into yet another what-if. He had T.J. surgery in 2007, and this season has put up a 2.20 ERA with Altoona and Indianapolis.

Brian Matusz RHP, BAL: The arms just keep on coming for the Orioles. In a group that includes Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton, Matusz has just as high a ceiling as his peers. He just got called to Double-A Bowie, and could challenge for a spot in the Baltimore rotation as early as 2010.

Jarrod Parker, RHP, ARI: One word: Heat. Parker can bring it as high as 98 miles per hour (though he usually sits around 94) and is far and away the Diamondbacks' top prospect. Between High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile, Parker has used his considerable talent to fan 70 hitters in 66 1/3 innings while posting a nearly 2-to-1 groundout-to-airout ratio.

Trevor Reckling, LHP, LAA: A native of Newark, Reckling makes up for an average fastball with superior breaking stuff, including what Baseball America calls a "drop-off-the-table" curveball. His 38 walks in 83 1/3 innings show he needs to polish his command, but his .202 batting average against reaffirms his top-flight potential.

Chris Tillman, RHP, BAL: Despite being one of just two Triple-A pitchers on this list (Lincoln is the other), Tillman is still just 21 years old. He was one of the key pieces of the trade that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners. He's permitted just 59 hits in 66 innings this season and has fanned 70 in that time. Look for him in the Orioles' rotation in 2010, if not sooner.


Jason Castro, LH, HOU: One of the few bright spots in an otherwise barren farm system, Castro backed up Buster Posey in the 2007 Cape Cod League. Castro projects for above average power -- BA reports he ranks about a 55-60 on the 20-80 scouting scale -- and an ability to hit for average, as well. He's hitting .305 with eight home runs and 47 RBIs between two levels this season.

Tyler Flowers, RH, CHW: Originally in the Atlanta system, Flowers moved to the White Sox when the Braves dealt for Javier Vazquez. This season with Double-A Birmingham, Flowers has pounded 10 HR, driven in 38 and compiled a fantastic .281/.436/.958. Defensively, he's nabbed 32 percent of would-be basestealers this season.


Pedro Alvarez, 3B, LH, PIT: He hasn't hit for a particularly high average yet (.246), but the power is clearly there. The Pirates' top pick in 2008 has socked 16 home runs and driven home a whopping 60 runs so far in his first pro season, good enough to warrant a promotion from Lynchburg to Double-A Altoona. Given his 75 strikeouts in 256 at-bats, it's easy to project him as Pittsburgh's answer to Ryan Howard, especially if he learns to walk a little more.

Chris Carter, 1B, RH, OAK: Carter was one of the slew of prospects acquired by Oakland in exchange for Dan Haren and Carlos Gonzalez (who's since been dealt to Colorado). He's replete with power, popping 11 longballs and driving home a half-hundred with Double-A Midland this season. With Jason Giambi nearing the tail end of his career, Carter could be the A's first baseman of the future.

Danny Espinosa, SS, SH, WAS: Probably on this list solely because the Nationals had to have a representative, Espinosa has managed to produce a .370 on-base percentage with modest .259 and .444 batting and slugging marks. He's stolen a dozen with the Potomac Nationals, but has been caught seven times. He'll need to work on his efficiency in that category if it is to be considered a legitimate weapon at the major league level.

Scott Sizemore, 2B, RH, DET: After cleaning up in Double-A, Sizemore has had a bit of a rough go of it so far in his brief foray into Triple-A. Overall, he's been compared to the man he may one day replace: Placido Polanco. He's sporting a rather spiffy .300/.390/.910 batting line this season and is improving steadily at second, though he'll never be a top-flight defender.

Josh Vitters, 3B, RH, CHC: Vitters, the Cubs top pick in 2008, doesn't turn 20 until late August. He's hit 13 home runs and driven home 42 this season, which obviously bodes well for his future. Just seven walks in 254 at-bats says he has significant work to do as far strike-zone command is concerned. Aramis Ramirez is in place for a while at Wrigley, which will buy Vitters the time he needs to develop into an adequate replacement.

Brett Wallace, 3B, LH, STL: The Cardinals' 2008 first-rounder has already made it to Triple-A, and is doing relatively well for someone in his first season of professional baseball. He's popped eight home runs and racked up 25 RBIs in 270 at-bats across two levels. He's OBPing at a better-than-average .359 clip (though most of that was compiled at Double-A) but is slugging just .400.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, SH, MIL: Weeks is the brother of Milwaukee's Rickie, and to say he's excelling at High-A Stockton would be an understatement of massive proportions. There's not much more to say about Weeks except this: He's hitting .388/.479/1.166 in 20 games. Wow.

Eric Young Jr., 2B, SH, COL: The son of former Major Leaguer and current ESPN analyst Eric Young, Junior was a 30th-round selection of the Rockies in 2003, but is still just 24 years old. He's stolen 43 bases -- yes, 43 -- in just 67 games this season with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Coupled with phenom Dexter Fowler, the Rockies could be burning up the basepaths for years to come.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Medchill debuts in style

Neil Medchill, the Yankees' 11th-round pick from Oklahoma State, debuted in style on Sunday, going 1-for-3 with a home run in his firsr professional with the Staten Island Yankees, part of back-to-back jacks with teammate Kelvin Castro.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Filling out my All-Star Ballot

For the first time in my life, I have been asked to fill out a ballot of some sort as a part of my duties as a member of the media. In this case, it's the Eastern League all-star ballot. Here is my ballot and the reasoning behind my choices.

First, the rules: I cannot vote for any member of the Thunder. That's the Eastern League's rule, not mine. There's a section at the bottom of the ballot where I can write in the two best pitchers and the three best position players on the Thunder.

Now, the results.

First base: Brandon Snyder, Bowie Baysox.

The only real competition here is Brian Dopirak of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. That said, the competition isn't really that close. Snyder has a better average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Dopirak has more home runs and RBIs, but that's partly due to Snyder missing a few games with back spasms.

Edit: Well, it appears Snyder won't be joining in the festivities at Waterfront Park on July 15. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk and played his first game there tonight. Given this turn of events, it seems the obvious choice would Ryan Strieby of the Erie Seawolves, whom I initially overlooked on my first pass. His numbers: .291/.413/.976 with 14 home runs.

Second base: Brock Bond, Connecticut Defenders.

This one's tough. There's no real standout, but there are several pretty good ballplayers. I went with Bond because his .412 OBP is fifth in the EL and second among second basemen (Reegie Corona is first, but I can't vote for him). Also, hearing Waterfront Park P.A. Announcer Bill Bromberg say "Bond...Brock Bond" wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Third base: Danny Valencia, New Britain Rock Cats.

Confession: Part of the reason I picked Valencia was my desire to see him compete in the home run derby. His stats are pretty good, too: 13 doubles, four triples, six home runs, 26 RBIs and an .825 OPS.

Shortstop: Brian Friday, Altoona Curve.

This is another case where the Thunder have the best player (Eduardo Nunez) but I am barred from voting for him. In his stead, Friday will have to do. The Curve shortstop's .810 OPS gave him the edge over Binghamton's Ruben Tejada. Just 26 strikeouts in 159 at-bats doesn't hurt, either.

Outfield: Michael Taylor, Reading Phillies; Josh Reddick, Portland Sea Dogs; Juan Portes, New Britain Rock Cats

Taylor was easily the easiest choice on this list. His all-around numbers solidified both his five-tool status and possibly his future in Philadelphia's outfield. Reddick, although injured for a good chunk of the season, has put up impressive power numbers -- including a home run every 20 at- bats -- in his limited action. Portes was a bit of an unknown to me until I looked up his numbers. His .345/.407/.907 line made him a no-brainer for me.

Catcher: Josh Thole, Binghamton Mets

This 13th-rounder has torn up the Eastern League with a .413 on-base percentage and has walked six more times than he has struck out. Those number helped him edge Akron's super prospect Carlos Santana.

Pitchers: Tim Alderson, Connecticut Defenders; Kyle Drabek, Reading Phillies; Madison Bumgarner, Connecticut Defenders; Jeanmar Gomez, Akron Aeros

We're allowed to pick four pitchers, so I chose the two Giants' superstuds, although each has cooled off slightly of late. Kyle Drabek has shown no signs of slowing down since making the jump from Clearwater to Reading. Gomez's numbers are solid if not spectacular, but I'm making the selfish choice of trying to bring the man back to the site of his perfect game, the EL's first in 66 seasons.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Posada's time behind the plate over?

While he's still hitting pretty well, it may be time to realize that, at this point in his career, Jorge Posada is better suited as a designated hitter. One stat that may bear that out is Catcher's ERA (CERA). The stat is fairly simple: it breaks down the pitching staff's ERA when each catcher is behind the plate.

Posada sports a MLB-worst 6.46 ERA. With Francisco Cervelli (who I am still shocked to see in the majors), the staff is pitching to a 4.45 ERA.

Cervelli has already coaxed a shutout from CC Sabathia, as well as the best start of the season from A.J. Burnett.

What do you think? Is it time for the Yanks to switch catchers?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If you thought the Yankees loss tonight was brutal ...

... then you need to check this out.

The Thunder handed a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning to closer Amauri Sanit. He promptly loaded the bases and allowed a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam to Jeremy Slayden that sealed the series sweep for the R-Phils and wasted another spectacular outing by ace Zach McAllister.

Oh, and adding even more insult to the situation is the fact that it was Slayden's first at-bat of the season with Reading. Nice debut.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Supplemental Fun

In the Yankees win tonight, Phil Hughes relieved Andy Pettitte in the seventh inning. For Hughes, it was his first relief appearance of the season. It was more than that, though. Hughes, whom the Yankees chose with their choice in the "sandwich" round of the 2004 Draft. The Yankees received that choice for the loss of Pettitte to the Astros.

It was kind of interesting, maybe only to me, to see Hughes relieviing the man whose departure allowed him to become a Yankee in the first place. That, along with a spirited discussion with a co-worker about the legitimacy of the whole supplemental picks system, got me to thinking about some other notable sandwich choices.

-- For example, when the Phillies signed Jon Lieber in 2004, the Yankees used the pick they received to obtain shortstop C.J. Henry. Henry, Phillies fans may recall, was part of the package dealt to Philadelphia for Bobby Abreu. Henry fizzled with the Phils, re-signed with the Yankees briefly before leaving to play college basketball for the University of Memphis. The Yankees, by the way, will be paying for Henry's college education. That was a condition for Henry's agreeing to his original professional contract.

-- Similarly, when Philadelphia signed Tom Gordon away from the Yankees, New York used its two choices to select Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy.

-- On the other side of that coin is the story of how the Phils were able to land Joe Blanton during last season's trade deadline.

When Billy Wagner -- a Type A free agent -- was signed by the Mets, the Phillies received two picks: New York's first-round choice and a second "sandwich" pick. The choice from the Mets was used on fireballing youngster Kyle Drabek, due to pitch later today against the Thunder. With the sandwich pick, the Phillies took second baseman Adrian Cardenas, who later would be part of the package dealt to the A's for Blanton, who was drafted by Oakland with the pick they gained when the Yankees signed Jason Giambi.

-- Another good one: Nick Swisher was selected by the A's as compensation for the loss of Johnny Damon to the Red Sox. Two men whose home fields were once separated by 3,000 miles now play separated by just a few hundred feet -- and Melky Cabrera.

-- Here's one that's kind of bittersweet: When Rafael Palmeiro signed with the Rangers in 1999 the Orioles received two picks. They chose Brian Roberts and Larry Bigbie. So, for the record, as compensation for the man whose image would become synonymous with The Steroid Era, the Orioles chose two men who wound up in the Mitchell Report.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Welcome to Draft Eve

How many of you are stoked for the MLB Draft (now in prime time!)? I know I am. I will be at work for most of it, but will be following closely on my computer.

We know Stephen Strasburg will go first to the Nationals (even though I'm sure -- just like football -- Washington will take every bit of its allotted time before announcing its pick). After that, though, everything gets a bit muddied, especially when you throw in the stress fracture to Missouri right-hander Kyle Gibson.

Also, according to Baseball America, projected number two pick Dustin Ackley have some pie-in-the-sky demands that may cause him to drop deeper into the first round.

As for the local teams: The Phillies and Mets lost their first-round picks to the Mariners and Angels when they signed Raul Ibanez and Francisco Rodriguez, but I'm sure they're both just fine with those trade offs. The Yankees still have a first-rounder, though, because they failed to sign last year's top pick, Gerrit Cole, who instead went to UCLA.

The Angels and Diamondbacks both have consecutive picks in the first round, and Los Angeles of Anaheim has five picks in the first 51, so they might go a long way to reestablishing themselves and their farm system.

Also, while visions of Strasburgs dance in your head, here are some of the best picks by numbers over the last 25 or so years of the draft.

#1 Picks: David Price, Justin Upton, Joe Mauer, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton, Pat Burrell, Darin Erstad, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., Darryl Strawberry

#2 Picks: Justin Verlander, B.J. Upton, Mark Prior, Josh Beckett, Tony Clark, Will Clark, Joe Carter

#3 Picks: Evan Longoria, Lou Montanez, Troy Glaus, Mike Lieberthal, Matt Williams

#4 Picks: Ryan Zimmerman, Kerry Wood, Kevin Brown, Barry Larkin

#5 Picks: Matt Wieters, Brandon Morrow, Ryan Braun, Mark Teixeira, J.D. Drew, Vernon Wells, Jack McDowell, Kent Mercker

#6 Picks: Zack Greinke, Rocco Baldelli, Derek Jeter, Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds

#7 Picks: Clayton Kershaw, Troy Tulowitzki, Nick Markakis, Prince Fielder, Trot Nixon, Dan Wilson, Frank Thomas,

#8 Picks: John Van Benschoten, Felipe Lopez, Todd Helton, Todd Walker, Jim Abbott, Jay Bell

#9 Picks: Mike Pelfrey, John Danks, Jeff Francis, Barry Zito, Michael Cuddyer, Geoff Jenkins, Mark Kotsay, Kevin Appier, Ron Darling

#10 Picks: Tim Lincecum, Ian Stewart, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Pena, Jon Garland, Eric Chavez, Ben Sheets, Jaret Wright, Carl Everett, Charles Johnson, Robin Ventura, Mark McGwire, Kelly Gruber

and just for fun

#31 Picks: J.P. Howell, Aaron Heilman, Jarrod Washburn, Kirt Manwaring ... and GREG MADDUX

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Future is Here

That's right, Jesus Montero has been promoted and will be in Trenton tonight for their game with the Baysox. Of course, heavy rain is in the forecast and the game most likely will not be played. Once the rain lifts, though, the 19-year-old super prospect will be behind the dish in Trenton, and most likely on the roster for the Eastern League All-Star team in July. Stay tuned.