Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Rookie Ball

Cost cutting and the nurturing of minor league players go hand in hand. So that’s the next stop on our Tour of Frugality.

It had to be done some time this off-season: the beginning of the C.J. Henry saga. Yeah, remember back in June, when Major League Baseball held its annual amateur draft? Yeah, baseball has one of those, too! In the first round, the Yankees had what appeared to be a no-brainer of a pick, as St. John’s closer Craig Hansen was still on the board. And since you can never have too many arms in the bullpen, we all just assumed that he would one day be a Yankee (or traded for Jamie Moyer).

Monkey Wrench: Hansen’s agent is Scott Boras, the same Scott Boras that Brian Cashman is undoubtedly sick of dealing with. Remember that whole discount thing with Carlos Beltran right before he signed with the Mets? Yeah, that’s because he screwed Beltran. His ridiculous contract demands forced the Yankees to balk, leaving him with only the Mets on the table. Beltran wanted the Yankees, so Boras offered a discount, and the Yankees wisely rejected. Point is: if dealing with Scott Boras can be avoided, by all means avoid, avoid, avoid.

So the Yanks passed on Hansen and drafted high schooler C.J. Henry, whom they immediately began describing as another Derek Jeter. Apparently he has the same passion for the game that D.J. does, and they play the same position. Apparently that’s all it takes to make such a dramatic comparison.

The Yankees began the comparisons, and I’m going to continue them. The Sporting Brews is now the official C.J. Henry tracker. Throughout the 2006 season, I’m going to keep everyone updated on this coveted prospect who, also like Jeter, was taken in the first round. For starters, let’s examine their numbers from Rookie ball.

Derek Jeter, 1992

C.J. Henry, 2005

Very interesting. So it looks like Henry is the bigger producer in his first minor league season. And not only that, truth be told, those aren’t terrible numbers for a high schooler in Rookie ball. Sure, Henry ranked 8th on the GCL Yankees in OBP (100 at bats to qualify), but his isolated numbers are right up there.

Jeter spent his entire second season playing A ball in Greensboro, and it appears that Henry will follow a similar path, though he could split time among the various A-level teams affiliated with the Yankees. Here’s Derek Jeter in 1993:


Rise in batting average, lower isolated numbers. But this progression makes sense, since Jeter’s raw numbers all saw an increase. And for 2006, we’re going to see just how far C.J. Henry comes in his Jeter-esque development. It usually takes a high schooler about four years in the minors to develop, which will put us at 2009. By then, it’s questionable at best whether Jeter can still handle short. Henry might come just in the nick of time.

Some other notables from the 2005 Gulf Coast League Yankees (age in parentheses):

Jose Tabata (17): 156 AB, .314/.382/.417
Austin Jackson (18): 148 AB, .304/.374/.405
Angel Fermin (20): 154 AB, .305/.360/.526
Joel Perez (23): 124 AB, .242/.347/.427
Jose Gil (19): 140 AB, .279/.364/.379

Aw, hell. I know I want to focus on Henry, but I think it would be fun to follow all of these guys through next year. That’s four outfielders, a shortstop (Henry) and a catcher (Gil). We’re going to entitle this “Quest For The 2008 Roster,” even though if any of them make it, it will likely be 2009 (with Perez being the obvious exception).

Now for a pitcher. I guess two from the GCL make the cut, 19-year-old righty Francisco Castillo and 19-year-old lefty Domingo Cabrera. Castillo gave up just eight runs over 41 innings (five starts) for a 1.76 ERA. His 34 strikeouts in that time works out to 7.46 per nine, a respectable total to go along with 3.07 walks per nine. For a bit of icing, he only allowed one ball to leave the yard. And for the cherry on top, he hurls it 94-95 m.p.h. (per Baseball America).

Cabrera posted a 2.31 ERA over 31.1 innings (two starts), while posting 10.63 strikeouts per nine, only walking 2.6 per nine, and only let two reach the bleachers. The Baseball America link supplied above doesn’t touch the subject of Cabrera, but that could be because of his slightly undersized 6’1” frame. But it looks like the guy can chuck. Honorable mention here goes to Erik Wordekemper, who only walked one batter over 29.2 innings. But he did get roughed up a bit at short-season A Staten Island, giving up five earned runs over 10 innings, striking out only three and walking two.

That makes nine guys from Rookie ball, which makes me realize that I’m overvaluing these guys plenty. But whatever. Chances are that if someone in the organization is going to make it, it will be one of these guys, or one of the players I’ll cover in the next few days. Hell, if you pick a large herd, some are bound to flourish.