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

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A second try at predicting the Thunder roster - the rotation

In  a series of texts earlier this month between myself and Donnie Collins, who covers the Triple-A Yankees for the Scranton Times-Tribune, I remarked that this year had become by far the most difficult in terms of trying to come to even a rough sketch of what the upper levels of the system might look like come April. 

In fact, I said, I could put together a hypothetical Double-A outfield consisting solely of players who I think have a serious chance to be cut from camp before the season starts. There are simply too many machinations and moving parts, and too much clutter in the organization overall. 

By clutter, I'm referring to players who are done proving themselves at their respective levels,  players who have no real shot at making the major leagues with the Yankees and are biding their time until they can find either another organization or another job entirely, or players who were signed this offseason to provide major league depth on the Triple-A roster. 

In what had to look like a scene from a mental hospital, I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon putting together incarnation after incarnation of the 24 players who will open the season in Trenton. In the end, I came up with a list of 38 players whom I think have a shot at Double-A to begin 2012. Here, sorted by position, is that list:




21. Ray Kruml


38. Josh Romanski

Even with that exhaustive list, I'm pretty sure I missed a few. Over the last few weeks, Donnie Collins has been taking a position-by-position crack at the Scranton roster. Let's see where his research led him, shall we?

Manny Banuelos
Dellin Betances
David Phelps
Adam Warren
D.J. Mitchell

Matt Daley
Manny Delcarmen
George Kontos
Mike O'Connor
Clay Rapada
Ryan Pope
Kevin Whelan

Austin Romine
Gustavo Molina

Doug Bernier
Brandon Laird
Jayson Nix
Ramiro Pena
Kevin Russo
Jorge Vazquez

Dan Brewer
Colin Curtis
Cole Garner
DeWayne Wise
Austin Krum/Ray Kruml

Just from looking at Donnie's initial prediction, one can easily see a theme for the Thunder: Quite a few players are going to be kept back because of the numbers game. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least four players who probably deserve to be at Triple-A, but might get sent back to Trenton anyway.

1. Shaeffer Hall
2. Corban Joseph
3. Pat Venditte
4. Tim Norton

Of those four, only Norton really blew the doors off at Trenton. He has no business being at Double-A ever again. If he hadn't gotten hurt in Scranton, I think there was a really good chance of him helping the big club in 2011.

Joseph's season was solid if not spectacular, and he certainly has things to improve upon, but not enough, I think, to keep him from advancing in 2012. That said, there's probably a reason the Yankees invested in Bernier again this offseason, and it's not to be Robinson Cano's backup.

Hall pitched admirably to open last season but steadily faded down the stretch, posting ERAs higher than 4.60 in June, July and August. Over those three months, he allowed 105 hits in 83 2/3 innings, and opponents reached him for a .308 average. His strikeout-to-walk ratio held at slightly better than 2:1, though, that's a dip from his full-season mark.

Whether it's by cutting someone or putting a player on the fake DL to start the year, I think the Yankees will probably find a way to get Norton to Triple-A come April. Joseph, Venditte and Hall, however, might want to consider finding month-to-month leases in the Mercer or Bucks County area.

That's three down, so what about the rest? Let's start with the rest of the rotation behind, I assume, Hall.

The only real name prospect I imagine will start the year in Trenton is Brett Marshall, the Yankees' 11th best prospect as ranked by Baseball America. Frankly, I was pretty surprised not to see him in Trenton at some point last year, especially when Banuelos and Betances were promoted.

After a godawful April (9.00 ERA, 14 Ks in 21 IP, 1.62 WHIP, .310 BAA), Marshall settled down the rest of the way and finished 9-7 with a 3.78 ERA and a groundout-to-airout ratio of close to 2-to-1. He'll  be 22 when the season starts, and will probably pitch toward the middle of the Thunder's rotation for most of the season.

Joining Hall and Marshall most likely will be Graham Stoneburner, whose career stalled a little bit last year when he missed more than three months with a persistent neck/shoulder issue. He made just 11 starts all year and earned only one win (April 15 vs. Harrisburg), thus earning him a ticket back to Trenton to see if he can make up for lost time.

After those three is where it gets tricky.

Craig Heyer, who spent all of 2011 with Trenton, is a good candidate to slot into the rotation somewhere once again. He doesn't have flashy stuff or a big profile, but he provided the Thunder some much-needed reliability in an uncertainty-plagued season, and he'll probably be counted upon to do so again in 2012.

So far, that gives us a rotation that, in no order, looks like this:

1. Brett Marshall
2. Graham Stoneburner
3. Shaeffer Hall
4. Craig Heyer

Sean Black, Mikey O'Brien and Jairo Heredia are all candidates for Double-A's fifth spot, I think, but I think they'll all get trumped, at least to begin the season, by Trenton's reliable swingman, Cory Arbiso.

Arbiso, who in 2010 had a chance to pitch a possible fifth game of the Eastern League Championship Series, has pitched in 72 Thunder games (20 starts) over the last two seasons. Like Heyer, he's been a part of the rotation, pitched out of the bullpen, and made a few spot starts when needed.

I imagine he'll probably get the nod for the first couple of months, before someone like Heredia is warmed up and ready for a promotion, at which time Arbiso will bounce back into his comfortable swingman role.

So, to recap, that come April the five starting pitchers for Tony Franklin will be:

1. Brett Marshall
2. Graham Stoneburner
3. Shaeffer Hall
4. Craig Heyer
5. Cory Arbiso

It's not going to make the scouts or the folks over at Baseball America drool, but it's what Trenton will throw at the rest of the Eastern League for a few months.


Blogger yanksince57 said...

some thoughts on the numbers game:
do we know the exact opt-outs for nix, garner, wise and the vet pitchers?
will the yankees try to finesse the rule v pitchers to aaa or just return them?
why sign of vets if brewer, curtis, krum and kruml are slated for the "barnstorming team"?

February 25, 2012 at 9:28 PM 
Blogger Josh Norris said...

I don't believe any of them have opt-outs.

February 27, 2012 at 1:55 PM 
Anonymous nyyfaninlaaland said...

What about Josh Romanski? I think he might take the spot you've got with Arbiso to start the season. At least for the early season anyway until a promotion arises - you'd think they'd also want see what he can do in an extended bullpen look and whether they should add him to the 40 man given their shortage of upper level lefty relief candidates and his free agent status again.

I'd doubt Black gets moved up, but he did spend the whole (mediocre or worse for him) season in Tampa, while O'Brien made only a handful of starts after his promotion there. If Heredia is fully healthy and throwing well he could make the jump - NY needs to see if they should add him to the 40 man after the season or risk losing him in minors free agency. But they could hold off on these guys and see who earns a promotion by midseason.

Tampa is one level where there isn't an overabundance of rotation candidtes to start the season - I figure they start with Black again, plus later promos O'Brien and Turley, and Charleston promos Nuding and Greene. Heredia bumps 1 of them if healthy and not in Trenton, and Vidal Nuno is probably the only other real candidate there.

On yanks 57 above, NY's situation with Cesar Cabral is interesting - if he doesn't make the Yanks and clears waivers they can just keep him. They don't have to offer him back to Boston because this is his 2nd Rule 5 claim.

And on the OF's, Dickerson is already on the AAA roster after being outrighted. Beyond him, only Curtis has any majors experience, and both he and Dickerson are lefty bats, as are Kruml and Krum. Cole Garner is the lead righty pony - Brewer isn't remotely ready for the bigs. Likewise Nix and Wise are lefties - both could be offered the opportunity to seek opportunity elsewhere given Dickerson's presence. And I imagine NY might like to hang on to Maxwell if they can as another majors ready righty bat in an injury pinch, but it remains to be seen if he'll clear waivers and stay with NY.

March 14, 2012 at 11:29 PM 

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