Now that the minor league season is over, let's take a look at how our minor league teams did this year, and what type of prospects are at each level. First, let's look at our Triple-A team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The RailRiders had a 68-76 record this year, but a Pythagorean record of 72-72. Given how often their players were being shipped off to fill in for injured players in New York, that really isn't that bad.
I will break down hitters and pitchers separately, and into three categories: Cups of Coffee, Organizational Role Players, and Prospects. Obviously, Prospects hold the most potential value, ORP's can have major league value, and CoC's usually fall in one of these two camps, but did not spend a significant amount of time at that level.
First, the pitchers:
Cups of Coffee:
Chamberlain, Nova, and Pineda were on rehab assignments. Patterson is a former top prospect signed for outfield depth, and was also asked to pitch an inning for the team. As was Baker, a catcher by trade. Romanski was released and spent most of the year with the Double-A team for the White Sox. The same for Perez, who is now a member of the Detroit system. Lewis and Pope spent most of their time in Double-A Trenton, and Herndon bounced between four minor league levels for the Yankees this year.
Organizational Role Players:
Bootcheck, Daley, Miller, Eppley, and Huff all made at least one appearance with the major league club this season, with Huff's 19.1 innings leading the way. This is about what you can expect from ORPs. Demel and Tateyama have had time in the big leagues before this season, and Zagurski, Wang and Rapada played with other clubs this year. The only one in this group who has yet to play in the big leagues is Juan Cedeno, who is now in the Atlanta Braves system and has spent 11 fairly mediocre years in the minor leagues due solely to his ability to throw with his left arm.
I have ranked the pitching prospects in Triple-A amongst themselves. Ramirez, Turley, Heredia, Nuding, and Rondon spent most of their seasons in Double-A, so I will review them then. Cotham, Spence, and Stoneburner are marginal prospects who will probably turn into ORPs with an outside chance as middle relievers at the major league level.
Claiborne graduated to the major league roster with solid results overall (although he has hit a wall recently): 46.2 IP, 7.1 K/9, 3.1 K/BB, 106 ERA+, 3.76 FIP, 0.3 fWAR, 0.5 rWAR. That is about as good as you could expect from him coming into the season, given his good-but-not-great performance in the minors since being drafted by the Yankees in 2010.
Mark Montgomery was viewed as one of the best reliever prospects in the minor leagues coming into 2013. Many thought he would be on the team this year, with an outside shot of making the big league club out of spring training. As I wrote on my midseason top prospect list, where Montgomery ranked #15:
Mark Montgomery was a top ten prospect before the season began, and was seen as potentially the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera. Montgomery was drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 draft, out of Longwood University in Virginia. He fit the Oppenheimer mold of quick-moving college relievers with one out pitch. Unlike many of these picks, Montgomery showed a lights-out, major league level slider as soon as he entered pro ball, collecting 51 strikeouts in 28.1 innings after being drafted - a ridiculous 16.2 K/9, 41.1 K%. He was similarly dominant in 2012, reaching Double-A and posted a combined 13.8 K/9, 39.4 K%. His K% didn't drop as much as his K/9 because he also cut his walk rate, from 4.1 BB/9 and 10.5 BB% to 3.1 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%.
Before 2013, he was poised to debut in Triple-A, with the expectation that he would be promoted to the big league bullpen sometime in the summer. He has fought injuries and has struggled in his transition to Triple-A. So far in 2013, he has put up a less than amazing 10.9 K/9, 27.1 K%, 4.8 BB/9, 13.9 BB%. His K/BB dropped by 56.7%, from 4.5 to 1.95 K/BB. He still should become an average middle reliever pretty easily, but he has the potential to be one of the better relief arms in the league. He will have some hiccups, like David Robertson did at first, with command and control, but assuming he works through this, he and Robertson could be a very nice 1-2 punch at the end of games over the next few years.
He will look to prove himself worthy of a shot with the big league club in spring training next year. It would seem that Joba Chamberlain's spot would be his to lose, as I doubt the team will sign any middle relievers (beyond minor league contracts) given Plan $189. If he doesn't make the club out of spring training, I would expect him to be up sometime mid-season.
Dellin Betances was written off by me, and most others, coming into 2013. His first act as a starter in 2013 did nothing to change minds. However, after his move to the bullpen, he showed that his electric stuff was much easier to harness in shorter bursts. The inconsistency in his pitching mechanics has been less of an issue out of the bullpen. As a reliever, he had a 1.35 ERA, with 83 strikeouts and 26 walks in 60 innings, good for a 12.5 K/9 and 3.2 K/BB ratio. He is out of minor league options after this year, and will have to make the team next spring or be subject to waivers. Another team will definitely take him and give him a shot in the bullpen. He will probably push Montgomery back to Triple-A to start the season, but I'd imagine he will have a short leash. I am actually really excited to see what he can do as a bullpen guy, and hope he gets some shots here in September. He has pushed his way back into the top 20 prospects just based on his potential coming out of the bullpen.
Brett Marshall is our starting pitching prospect who is closest to contributing to the major league ball club. He has had a rough year, but could still be useful as a long-man/spot-starter, following the path of Adam Warren and David Phelps in recent years. He was #18 on my mid-season prospect list. Here is what I wrote about him:
Brett Marshall was drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round in 2008 out of high school in Baylands, TX. It took $850,000 (plus $200,000 for future college costs) to sign him away from playing college ball at Rice. He broke out in 2010 in the Yankees system, getting noticed with a 2.57 ERA, 20.5 K%, and 2.7 K/BB over three levels and 84 innings before finishing the year in Tampa. He continued this success in 2011 and 2012, reaching Double-A Trenton as a 22 year old, with a 3.52 ERA, 18.1 K%, and 2.3 K/BB in 158.1 innings. His strikeout numbers have slipped as he has gone up the ladder, as has his ERA. However, he has continued to post excellent ground ball rates, posting a 60.8 GB% over his minor league career. He has struggled this year, posting a 5.99 ERA in Triple-A Scranton, with a 18.6 K% and only a 1.43 K/BB, the worst numbers of his career. His BB% has jumped, as has his HR%, while his LOB% has dropped. And that isn't even including his horrible MLB debut. He could be hitting a developmental wall, finding out his stuff isn't quite up to par for the high minors and the major leagues. However, for now I still have faith that he can become a back of the rotation starter or swingman, especially with that sinker, and could fill Adam Warren's role next year if Warren makes the starting rotation. If he continues to struggle this year, he may be much lower in the rankings by the end of the year.
He is probably no longer a top 20 prospect for the team, given his continued struggles this year. However, he does have an outside shot at the big league club next season, given only two starters are under control for next year (CC and Nova). Phelps could be looking at Tommy John surgery, and Warren could be pushed into the rotation. If that is the case, Marshall could make it as the long-man.
Whitley, Cabral, and Nuno are lesser prospects, but all have a shot at helping the big league club in 2014. Boone Logan is a free agent, and Cabral looks like the leading candidate to replace him. So far, he has three strikeouts, no walks, and one hit in 1.1 innings since being called up for September, showing very good stuff from the left side. Nuno will be Marshall's competition for the long-man spot if Warren is pushed to the rotation. Surprising fact: Nuno is 7th on the New York Yankees in pitching rWAR, with 0.7 WAR accumulated in his 20 innings pitched in the major leagues. The team started to stretch Whitley out as a starter in August, and he was surprisingly effective, putting up a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings, with 18 strikeouts and five walks. He will probably return to Scranton in 2014 to continue the transition to the rotation, with a shot at being the next in line for the long-man position.
So there you have it, the pitchers of the 2014 Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. While most of them will not contribute to the big league club next year, there are a handful that could. If I was ranking them in order of most likely to contribute next year, I would go Betances, Montgomery, Cabral, Nuno, Marshall, Whitley. Who do you think will be the most valuable for the 2014 Yankees? Vote and discuss below.