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April 19, 2005

Minor League Notes: 4/17&18/05
by Fabian

Note: Park Factors are courtesy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 and “they are actually adjustments for teams, based on their own mix of home and road parks…relative to the league”. Numbers in parentheses are hitters’ totals in the respective category at this point of the season and counted across levels. A pitcher’s line consists of IP-H-R-ER-BB-SO-HR.

AAA Columbus (International League):
Park Factor:


Robinson Cano opened the season with a 10-game hitting streak before having it snapped on Sunday. A big reason why that hitting streak was snapped was that despite going to the plate 6 times, Cano only took 4 official at bats due to being intentionally walked twice (3). While it sucks that his hitting streak is over, it is impressive that opposing teams now fear Cano enough to walk him in critical situations. In Monday night’s game, Cano ended his 1 game “slump” by going 2 for 5 with 2 singles and is currently hitting .373 through his first 51 at bats of the year.

Chien-Ming Wang gutted through Sunday’s game for Columbus. The 25-year-old finished the game with a line of 7-7-4-4-3-2-0, as he did not have his typical control of the pitches. This included a 3rd inning that featured some very sloppy fielding by him and his teammates. In the end Wang was able to pitch a solid game as he continues to bide his time while Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright scuffle in the majors.

AA Trenton (Eastern League):
Park Factor:

Eric Duncan was 1 for 8 with a walk (8) over the course of Sunday and Monday’s games. The 3B has now been dropped down to 6th in the order after beginning the season hitting 4th, but continues to struggle to find consistency. Duncan also, shockingly, has yet to collect an extra base hit after averaging 1 every 7.8 at bats prior to this year. In addition, Duncan has only struck out 6 times, which works out to once every 6.8 at bats, after striking out once every 4 at bats prior to this year. It’s still early and Duncan’s lack of power could just be a slump, but I can’t help, but wonder whether he made a conscious effort to cut back on his swing in order to curtail strikeouts and as a result, his power has been affected. Hopefully, he breaks out soon and this will no longer be a worry.

Melky Cabrera was recently able to parlay one of his customary hitting streaks into his first AA HR and XBH of his career, but has since returned to the form he showed in the earlier portion of this season. Melky went 0 for 9 over Sunday and Monday and just like that his average has dropped all the way down to .250. Due to his only having 1 walk, which was intentional, and 1 XBH, his average is more harmful than the standard .250 would be.

Bronson Sardinha went 3 for 8 with a home run (1), 2 doubles (3), and 2 strikeouts (13) over the Sunday and Monday period. Sardinha has been better at the plate as of late, but surprisingly still only has 1 walk to his credit and has had strikeout issues. Despite all of the issues he has had throughout his career as far as defensive inconsistency and power production inconsistency, one thing Sardinha has typically managed to do is maintain control of the strike zone, so I wouldn’t look at this as a long term problem. Once he gets where he needs to be with that issue his average should hopefully go up and his solid power production thus far will become more evident.

Steven White pitched the Sunday game and was horrendous, giving him 2 awful starts in 3 tries; White’s final line was 4.2-8-4-4-2-2-1. White has had some serious control issues in his 12.1 innings thus far as evidenced by a BB:K ratio of 7-9. With 16 hits, including 2 HRs, given up already it also seems to reason that his fastball may not be fooling many hitters either. The positive lining in all this is that White usually got better as his stints in a league went on last year and we can hope for that happening this year as well.

Jeff Karstens pitched the Monday game and continues to impress in the early going. Karstens took the loss, but his defense was to blame as his final line was 6-7-5-1-0-3-0. I expected Karstens control to aid him in making the transition to AA more easily than White would, but his performance thus far has exceeded those expectations.

A+ Tampa (Florida State League):
Park Factor: .979

If Monday’s game is any indication, Rudy Guillen may finally be awaking from his season long slump. The RF was 3 for 4 with a walk (3) and a strikeout (11) to bring his season average up to .220, which isn’t much in the absolute sense, but it is MUCH better than what he was doing earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Erold Andrus and Hector Made continued their slumps after getting off to more promising starts than Guillen. Made was 1 for 5 and his average sits at .196 while Andrus was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts (6) and is hitting .244 thus far.

Tampa is the Yankee affiliate most difficult to get detailed information from/about, but at this moment I’m going to assume that Tyler Clippard left yesterday’s game after 4 innings due to reaching his pitch count rather than any sort of injury. Clippard began the game by getting strikeouts for his first 5 outs while allowing a single in between, but then seemed to run out of gas as the game went on to finish with a mediocre final line of 4-4-2-2-3-6-0.

A- Charleston (South Atlantic League):
Park Factor: .966

Tim Battle was only 1 for 8 with a double (3), a walk (4), and 3 strikeouts (21) between Sunday and Monday, but I have been impressed with his play of late. While he still strikes out a lot, it is not as much as he was earlier this year. In addition, while his strikeouts used to be mostly made up of at bats where he went to the plate, hacked at every pitch and then struck out swinging, some of his strikeouts of late have been due to working the count and laying off borderline pitches that don’t go his way. In addition, he has also been hitting the ball with much more authority has 6 XBH on the year.

Marcos Vechionacci was 1 for 9 with 2 strikeouts (10) during the 2 games, but I have no worries about him. He has been pretty consistent all year as far as putting together solid at bats, the only difference being that sometimes the line drives fall fair and sometimes they fall foul. I’m extremely impressed with the consistency displayed in this 18-year-old’s game.

Irwil Rojas has had a strange last two games as he struck out once in each game to give him 3 on the year. Rojas was 1 for 7 with a walk (5) to go along with those Ks. Rojas has been similar to Vechionacci thus far in terms of the offensive consistency when it comes to his approach. However, he does not the ball as consistently hard and has been very poor on defense; Rojas had 2 passed balls in Monday’s game and already has 5 on the year.

Jon Poterson, after a brief stretch of a couple games where he was good, has gone back to sucking. The RF was 0 for 8 with a strikeout (12) between Sunday and Monday. Estee Harris was not much better on Sunday, 0 for 4 with a strikeout, but then tripled his season hits total on Monday by going 2 for 4 with a strikeout (10). OF corners usually provide a lot of a team’s offense, but thus far this has not been the case for Charleston.

Brett Smith was victimized by poor defense and badly timed BABIP luck on Sunday, resulting in his worst start of the season, 5.2-8-3-3-1-8-0. Smith has still been very impressive thus far and still looks to be on course for at least a midseason promotion as opposing batters are having big problems handling his repertoire.

After Monday night’s game where Phil Hughes went 4-4-2-2-1-2-0, I began contemplating Hughes’ 3 starts thus far. The one thought I could not shake was that while Hughes had the nice tidy ERA of 1.88 thus far, none of his starts had left me as impressed as I thought they would heading into this year. His curveball had shown flashes, but that had been the only really exciting thing thus far as he had relied on weak contact by opposing hitters to get outs and was lacking the strikeouts I thought he would generate with a low to mid 90s fastball. Today’s BA Daily Dish shed some light on why this might be: “The Yankees are bringing right-hander Philip Hughes along slowly, and his stuff his coming along slowly as well. Hughes, the Yanks’ first-round pick last season, picked up his first loss Monday as he gave up two runs in four innings with two strikeouts against Columbus; his fastball topped out around 90 mph. He has a 1.88 ERA through three starts and has 11 strikeouts and four walks in 14 1/3 innings”. While it’s nice to know there is a reason why Hughes hasn’t been as spectacular as expected, it does worry me that he was only throwing around 90 as that leads me to worry about injury issues…or it could just be early season rust, hopefully.