Monday, December 19, 2005

The Staten Island Yankees

How much talent can one expect to find in a short-season A-Level team? With all the other minor league options, it would seem that sending a guy to a short-season A team is like sending him to the Island of Misfit Toys. For the Yankees, that island is Staten Island, home of, well, the Yankees. This level may not be chock full of talent, but if they have one asset, it’s youth. Not one player on the roster exceeds the age of 23.

Another problem inherent with Staten Island is the teeny sample size presented. Since it is a short-season team, there is in reality a 290 or 300 AB cap, and most players don’t reach those heights. In fact, only six guys on the team had over 200 ABs, so it only makes sense that those six players are the only ones in consideration.

Kyle Larsen, Brett Gardner, and Eduardo Nunez are the position players, and though it’s even tougher to find pitching, James Conroy, Joshua Schmidt, and Cory Stuart have to be considered as well.

Larsen seems to be the most intriguing of the bunch, a 6’5”, 240 pound, 22-year-old lefty first baseman. His frame is conducive to mashing the ball, and he showed that during the season for Staten Island:

ABAvgOBPSlgIso-DIso-PAB/SO
240.308.383.463.075.1556.86


All around impressive numbers. It is quite a relief to see a guy who can hit for power (tied for the team high with 19 doubles and 6 homers) without striking out a ton. And while his size may be a relief to some, it really has me wondering if he’s just a big boy overpowering the little men. I would like to see him start in Trenton, the two guys who played in Charleston last year have a better shot of moving up. So I guess it’s Charleston for Larsen in 2006.

Eduardo Nunez is ranked as the Yankees sixth best prospect, according to Baseball America’s Jim Callis. And considering he is a mere 18 years old, his ceiling has to be quite high at this point. Problem is, he plays shortstop. The light here is that, like C.J. Henry, he will probably be Major League ready by the time Jeter is unable to continue at the position. Nunez’s numbers at Staten Island:

ABAvgOBPSlgIso-DIso-PAB/SO
281.313.365.427.052.1146.53


So there is reaon to get a little excited for his 2006 season, presumably with Charleston. I would expect his average to regress a bit given the higher level of play, meaning that a key to his success is going to be taking pitches. That 6.53 AB/SO number is acceptable, but to fall further below that could be problematic. The development of Nunez could give the Yanks some options, though. If he develops quickly, he could be an adequate bargaining chip come July. Should he take the slow and steady path, he could be ready for the Majors in a few years, once again, in time for Jeter’s declining years.

Brett Gardner is under consideration merely for his speed and the fact that he plays center field. Melky Cabrera may seem like a more promising prospect, but Gardner didn’t have a shabby season in Staten Island.

ABAvgOBPSlgIso-DIso-PAB/SO
282.284.377.376.095.0945.76


Add to that 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts (90%), and we have a viable prospect here. I’d love to see Gardner start the season in Trenton, with Melky in Columbus. If nothing else, having Gardner in the system makes me feel a bit better about trading Cabrera, which may become an option come July. The blurb from Baseball America:

College of Charleston was one of the nation's most explosive offensive clubs, owing chiefly to leadoff man Brett Gardner, who should go in the first 10 rounds. Some scouts consider him a true leadoff threat because he has top-of-the-line speed, rating an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Gardner used his speed to rank among the national leaders in hits, batting and stolen bases. Gardner has first-step quickness and is at top speed after one or two steps, and he reminds scouts of Devil Rays prospect Joey Gathright with his explosiveness. He also stays within himself offensively with a flat swing that sprays line drives and hard ground balls; he rarely flies out. His instincts are solid and he has room for improvement defensively and with his bunting.


I’ll move on to the pitching now, but in reality, I doubt any of these guys will make it to the bigs, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on them. James Conroy is the only one with a decent sample size, 66.1 innings, and even that isn’t very telling. However, he struck out 67 over that span while walking 20, and did post a 2.02 ERA. There is some promise there, and at 6’4”, he’s got the frame. But, he is 23, so there is the ever-present possibility that he’s picking on the younguns.

I actually like Joshua Schmidt and Cory Stuart more, but they didn’t tally many innings, so whatever I say right here could be 100 percent false come next year when they’re pitching full seasons. And, like Conroy, they’re both 23. But let’s look at their numbers anyway.

IPK/9BB/9ERA
Schmidt33.012.822.180.27
Stuart32.213.783.580.83


Both of them have stellar numbers, but the small sample size has me wondering. Obviously they wouldn’t keep up the ERA pace over a full season. But if somehow they could keep their walk and strikeout totals in check, these guys could find some success at a higher level. Problem is, it’s much easier to say “keep those strikeouts up and those walks low” than to actually, you know, do it.

So it seems Staten Island is a bit more interesting than I had envisioned. These six guys will be fun to follow next year, mainly because they’ll be playing in Tampa or Charleston – or hell, even Trenton, which will give them a full season, rather than the shortened season offered on the Island. Three teams down, two to go. The Quest for the 2008 Roster will continue with Trenton sometime this week.