With the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders making their solitary trip of the season south to North Carolina (where I live), I took advantage of this rare chance to see the Yankee prospects closest to the majors and spent my weekend at the ballpark. While I only got the chance to take in three games (which is certainly quite a small sample size), I did notice a few things that have gotten me really excited for the potential currently being cultivated amongst the members of the RailRiders roster.
Rob Refsnyder is close...but not there yet
Of course, the biggest draw for the RailRiders this year has to be Rob Refsnyder, the presumptive Yankee second baseman of the future. All year, we've been wondering when we might finally get a chance to see Refsnyder at the big league level, and the continued struggles of Stephen Drew at the plate have us all craving for a middle infielder that might actually bring a league-average bat to boot as well. Refsnyder has been hyped as this offensive-minded prospect, and nothing I saw this weekend made me doubt that he's got the swing and approach to be successful in the majors. Refsnyder managed a hit in all four games of the series, including a three-hit, two homer performance in Sunday's finale. The kid is hitting .304/.361/.430 with a 134 wRC+ this season, and from what I saw this weekend, he's got a lot of patience and knows how to work an at bat. He went deep into a lot of counts, worked a couple walks out of pitcher's counts, and generally looked very comfortable and in control at the plate. With his two homers on Sunday, along with the 11 doubles he's already hit this season, Refsnyder continues to show good power for an up-the-middle prospect.
Unfortunately, this weekend also showed that he's still a work-in-progress defensively. While he made plenty of routine plays, and even managed to rob a couple base hits by making a couple diving snags on line drives, he also made a couple easy errors, such as throwing away a double play ball to first that would've ended Sunday's game. He also just missed making a few plays that, while they weren't routine, are the kind of plays that major league second basemen generally make (or at least get a glove on). While he's not there yet, with a bit more work, hopefully his defensive instincts will be ready for the majors. His bat certainly is.
The Triple-A bullpen is almost as scary as the major league pen
The bullpen is already a major strength for this year's Yankees, and it looks like this will be a trend that continues for some time. With Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, and Nick Rumbelow currently coming out of the pen in Triple-A, New York has some terrific young arms marinating in Scranton. Lindgren was drafted just last year and already looks about major league ready - his fastball sits comfortably around 92-93, and in the 2.2 innings he pitched Friday night, he gave up just one hit and one walk, mixing his fastball and his wipeout slider with devastating effect.
Burawa and Rumbelow looked quite impressive all weekend as well. Both throw a bit harder than Lindgren - Burawa consistently hit 96 and 97 when I saw him, and Rumbelow sat around 95 and touched 96 a couple times. Rumbelow's fastball is clearly his big strength, and while it's quite effective, his off speed pitches don't seem to be fooling many hitters. During a couple at bats, he would get ahead and then start trying to induce strikeouts by using his breaking pitches, and hitters simply weren't biting on them at all. Almost no one even offered at his off speed pitches, all of which were diving down out of the zone. While he does need to work on getting more swings on his secondary pitches, the fact that all three of these guys look quite impressive and have such great velocity means they should ensure that the Yankees bullpen remains a considerable strength for the foreseeable future.
Miguel Sulbaran's Debut
Miguel Sulbaran is a little known prospect who came over from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Eduardo Nunez (remember him?). Sunday, he made his first start at Triple-A, and what a debut it was - Sulbaran didn't surrender a run, giving up just five hits while walking two and striking out three. Sulbaran has quietly moved his way through the Yankees system over the past year, pitching 115 solid innings in High-A ball last season before beginning this year in Double-A. Before his first appearance this weekend for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Sulbaran posted a 3-1 record for the Trenton Thunder, along with a 2.80 ERA and a 3.47 FIP - encouraging numbers indeed. He looked promising Sunday, mixing a decent fastball that hit 91 and stayed around 89-90 for most of the afternoon with a very effective changeup that he was confident enough to throw in any count. While he occasionally got into trouble trying to challenge some of Durham's middle of the order hitters up in the zone with his fastball, he generally located it well and mixed it with his changeup. Sulbaran also flashed an above average curveball, and perhaps the most exciting thing - he's still only 21 years old. While he doesn't have huge upside, he's certainly posted good stats since arriving from Minnesota and has shown quite a bit of skill and promise - he should be a valuable bullpen piece or potentially even a decent back-end starter. While he won't be one of the Yankees top prospects, his success over the past couple years means he merits a look this year as he begins his first foray in Triple-A ball. After all the grief Eduardo Nunez caused Yankee fans over the years, he might actually have finally given New York something of value after all.
What prospects are you most excited about? Want to know how any else looked this weekend? Sound off in the comments?