Blogs > Minor Matters

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An early look at the 2013 Thunder

The NFL playoffs are upon us, the holiday season is drawing to a close, and spring training is right around the corner. With that in mind, it's a good time to take a preliminary look at the players who should make up the Thunder's opening day roster. 

Obviously, things can change. Minor league free agents can be signed, trades can happen, injuries can occur. Plenty of players have earned that bump to the upper levels, and there are sure to be plenty of returners in this crop. 

My guess, from 1 through 25:

1 - J.R. Murphy - C
2 - Jeff Farnham - C
3 - Kyle Roller - 1B
4 - Jose Pirela - 2B
5 - Jose Mojica - SS
6 - Kevin Mahoney - 3B
7 - Slade Heathcott - OF
8 - Ramon Flores - OF 
9 - Tyler Austin - OF
10 - Rob Segedin - OF
11 - Jose Toussen - IF
12  - Adonis Garcia - OF
13 - Jose Ramirez - SP
14 - Nik Turley - SP
15 - Zach Nuding - SP
16 - Mikey O'Brien - SP
17 - Shane Greene  SP
18 - Tommy Kahnle - RP
19 - Branden Pinder - RP
20 - Dan Burawa - RP
21 - Kramer Sneed - RP
22 - Graham Stoneburner - RP
23 - Cory Arbiso - RP
24 - Rigoberto Arrebato - RP
25 - Manny Barreda - RP

I've included Tyler Austin in this permutation because I believe he's earned his way here. That said, there are plenty of scenarios that could bring him back here to start 2013. For one, Abe Almonte -- whom the Yankees re-signed this offseason -- starting at Trenton would severely block his path. 

Almonte played about half the season between bouts of hamstring trouble, but hit very well (.276/.350/.392) when he got on the field. He also swiped 30 bases in 35 tries and was solid at all three outfield positions. With Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa and Chris Dickerson all good possibilities for the Scranton outfield, Abe could be pushed back. 

Same goes for Rob Segedin, who moved off third this season and should begin back at Trenton to start the year. In truth, he's probably better suited as the designated hitter. Even so, Segedin getting the nod in left would send Austin back to Tampa. 

Shortstop would be a lot clearer if the Yankees re-signed Walter Ibarra, who missed a great deal of time last year with finger injuries and had his starting spot usurped when Addison Maruszak caught fire. He's an MiLB FA and would be a shoo-in for the job if he comes back. 

If not, Jose Mojica is the obvious candidate. He handled the bulk of the reps at Tampa last year, and as such would be in position to make the move up. Jose Toussen did see a little time here last year, but he's more of true utilityman than a starter at any position. Neither Mojica nor Toussen hit well at Tampa, and each could use more time. If Ibarra doesn't come back, that may not be feasible. 

I'm fairly confident about each of the five starters and most of the relievers. The biggest questions, to me, are Stoneburner and Arbiso, each of whom have spent significant time with Trenton. Still, Stoneburner is just beginning to break in as a reliever, and Arbiso is an invaluable long man or spot starter. Either would be appropriate for Double-A or Triple-A.

Plenty can and will change between now and Opening Day, but that's my guess just a day after Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Flannery, Sublett and Mujica among seven released by Yankees

The Yankees on Saturday announced the releases of seven minor leaguers. Among the group were reliever Ryan Flannery — a Carlstadt native and a Fairleigh Dickinson alum — outfielder Damon Sublett and infielder Yadil Mujica. 

The other four cuts were pitchers Reinier Casanova and Jhorge Liccien (a catcher for most of his career), and outfielders Kelvin Duran and Justin James, the son of former Yankees outfielder Dion James. 

Casanova and Duran peaked at High-A Tampa, Liccien reached as high as Staten Island in 2011, and James never got past the Gulf Coast League. 

To those who saw the way Flannery, Sublett and Mujica were used last season, their releases don’t come as much of a surprise.

That’s particularly true for Flannery, who pitched in just six games after June and was transferred off the Thunder’s roster before the playoffs. 

Sublett had just 436 plate appearances in three seasons with Trenton, including just 84 last year. 
He was slated to undergo hip surgery this offseason. 

Mujica, a Cuban defector signed by the Yankees before the 2011 season, spent all of that year with the Thunder. He spent last season bouncing between Trenton, Scranton and Tampa. 

Also this offseason the Yankees have parted ways with catchers Jose Gil (Orioles) and Gustavo Molina (Rockies), utilityman Kevin Russo (Tigers), and pitchers Mike O’Connor (Twins), Justin Thomas (Athletics), Lee Hyde (Reds), John Maine (Marlins), Ramon Ortiz (Blue Jays) and Jon Meloan (Giants). 

All were minor league free agents, and Gil, Molina, Hyde and Meloan spent time in Trenton last year. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Franklin, Phelps, Dorante back in 2013

The Trenton Thunder, the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, announced on Friday that 2012 Eastern League Manager of the Year Tony Franklin will be return to Trenton for the seventh consecutive season.

Franklin will be joined in the dugout once again by pitching coach and former Major Leaguer Tommy Phelps who returns for a fifth season, as well as Coach Luis Dorante and Athletic Trainer Scott DiFrancesco, each returning for year two in Trenton. The coaching staff will include new additions Hitting Coach Justin Turner and Strength and Conditioning Coach Orlando Crance.

“Tony Franklin is a true professional and a great asset to the Thunder and our community,” said Thunder General Manager Will Smith. “We’re happy to welcome Tony back to guide the team during our 20th season celebration.”

Franklin guided the Thunder to back-to-back Eastern League Championships in 2007 and 2008 as well as Eastern League Championship Series appearances in 2010 and 2012. He has led Trenton to the post-season in four of his six seasons and owns a career managerial record of 1080-973 including a record of 488-390 with Trenton (records include post-season). The skipper recorded his 1,000 career managerial win and was named Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2012.

The 2008 Eastern League Championship was Franklin’s third title as manager. In 1993, he led South Bend (Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) to the Midwest League Championship. Prior to his time in Trenton, Franklin spent most of the last 11 years as the Minor League Infield Instructor for the San Diego Padres. His managerial career began with the White Sox organization as the manager for Geneva (NY) of the New York-Penn League in 1982.

Franklin spent four seasons in Geneva, making the playoffs in 1985. After one season with Wytheville (Appalachian League), he guided the White Sox affiliate in the Florida State League, the Sarasota White Sox, to a playoff appearance in 1989. Franklin spent two years as the skipper of the Birmingham Barons of the Southern League, including 81 wins in 1991 and a berth in the Championship Series.

Tommy Phelps will return for his fifth season as the pitching coach for the Thunder. Phelps pitched for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004 including a 2003 season in which he went 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in 27 games (seven starts). He was part of a Marlins team that won the World Series over the Yankees. Phelps pitched in 29 games for Milwaukee in 2005 and went 7-4 with a 4.45 ERA in 2006 with Columbus (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees). Phelps was originally an eighth round pick by Montreal in the 1992 draft.

Hitting Coach Justin Turner has spent the last two seasons as the Tampa Yankees hitting coach after spending one year with the Charleston RiverDogs. Turner was originally selected by the Angels in the eigth round of the 2001 draft. He played four seasons of affiliated baseball in the Angels (2001-04) and Red Sox (2004) organizations.

Coach Luis Dorante spent last season as Coach for the Trenton Thunder and the prior four years in the Pirates organization, serving as the Latin American Field Coordinator in 2011. From 2008-2010, he was the Pirates Bullpen Coach, having joined the Major League staff on November 20, 2007. He served the Florida Marlins in the same capacity during the 2005 campaign.

Dorante’s managerial career began with the Montreal Expos in the Gulf Coast League in 1995. The former Harrisburg Senators skipper returns to the Eastern League for the first time since the 2001 season. In 11 seasons as a minor league manager, Dorante led his team to the playoffs four times and compiled a record of 671-696. Primarily a catcher during his playing days, Luis also made appearances at first base, third base and in the outfield during his six-year minor league career.

Athletic Trainer Scott DiFrancesco has been in the Yankees organization for six years after spending last year with Trenton. Prior to that he was with Tampa for 2011 and the previous three with Charleston. He also completed an internship at the Yankees complex in Tampa, FL in 2006. He has a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Ball State University.
The 2013 Trenton Thunder season will begin on Thursday, April 4 at Portland with the home opener slated for Thursday, April 11 vs. Richmond.