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Farm system recap: Scranton Yankees, aka A Farewell to A-Jax

With all the recent events between the Yankees and their division rivals, this had to be delayed.

The Triple-A Yankees finished first in the International League's Northern Division with an 81-60 record. They were swept, however, in the IL finals by the Durham Bulls, three games to none.

The offensive star was once again Shelley Duncan, who won the MVP after hitting .277/.370/.546 and leading the league in homers and RBI. He'll be 30 next year and declined to return to the Scranton Yankees, making himself a free agent. It's too bad that he happened to be in the organization of a team with such talent at the big league level. I believe he could've been (and still might be) a productive ML hitter.

Cuban defector Juan Miranda was the left-handed MVP, batting .290/.369/.498. He's been called the current DH for the big league Yankees, but we all should remember Brian Cashman's statement that Bubba Crosby was the starting centerfielder right before they signed Johnny Damon. However, having Miranda as the platoon DH/1B wouldn't be so bad. He murders right-handed pitchers (.893 OPS vs. RHP, .712 vs. LHP). But having a DH that only plays two-thirds of the games makes for problems by itself. He's a solid insurance policy in case (Mo forbid) Teixeira goes down.

The best prospect on Scranton was Austin Jackson (.300/.354/.405), who led the team in plate appearances because he hit lead-off much of the year. He's what's called a 'toolsy' prospect, basically meaning he hasn't shown much in terms of production but has the raw tools to be a very good player. His best stint to date was a half-season with the Tampa Yankees (.345/.398/.566 in 67 games). However, he has never come close to that incredible slugging average since 2007 (.419 and .405 the two years since). What's also concerning (for Detroit) is his strikeout rate: 522 in 565 career games. Generally a player that K's that much also hits for power - not so with Ajax, who has 30 career homers. The Tigers are hoping that his raw physical ability eventually translates into power (he'll only be 23 next year). He hits for a decent average (.288) and OBP (.356), steals bases (123 SB, 34 CS) and plays above-average defense (by most accounts). He'll never be a superstar, but could be a good centerfielder for many years (which is extremely valuable).

There wasn't anyone too exciting on the pitching side. Romulo Sanchez (65 ip, 4.04 ERA, 64 K, 34 BB, 1.55 WHIP) was acquired from the Pirates in May. The Yankees like his high-90's velocity, but what's perplexing is his relative lack of K's (until this year). He K'ed 5.9/9 before this season. That rate jumped to 9.2/9 this year. Being just 25, he still has a chance at a long ML career. He'll never have a rotation spot, but his heat could make him an intriguing bullpen option in 2010.

Another relief option is Mark Melancon (53 ip, 2.89 ERA, 54 K, 11 BB, .91 WHIP), the former closer for the U. of Arizona. His career minor league stats are sick: 156 ip, 2.54 ERA, 151 K, 35 BB, .96 WHIP. His problem at the major league level, in a brief 13-game stint, was control: he walked 10 in 16 innings. That can be attributed mostly to nerves. His MiL walk rate is very low (2/9), so once he gets comfortable in the majors, we should see the dominant Mark Melancon.

I guess I need to mention He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who now holds Scranton's career mark for wins, with 29. He led the team in innings (145), wins (10), K's (105), walks (40) and homers allowed (21). Two years to go...