Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Quest for the 2008 Roster: Trenton & Columbus

Just when you thought I had forgotten, I’m back with what looks to be the final installment in the Quest for the 2008 Roster. I’m going to hit Trenton and Columbus in one swipe, since many players fluctuate between these two levels frequently during the season.

Leading off the segment is a man whose name has been mentioned countless times: Kevin Thompson. He led the Thunder in batting average, OBP, and slugging percentage last year, and was flipped between there and Columbus a few times. His averages from each league:


The main problem with Thompson is that he’s already 26. He’s no geezer, but you would normally see a major leaguer ready before the age of 26 or 27. His build doesn’t help much either, standing at 5’10, 185, which just happens to be the same size as me.

Though he was faced with a smaller sample size in Triple-A, Thompson didn’t prove much of anything during his tenure with Columbus. He’ll get the nod there to start the 2006 season, and who knows, maybe he can be a viable option off the Yankees bench in years to come. At this stage of his career, it may be the best he can hope for.

Another 26-year-old on the radar is Shelly Duncan, a 6’5 first baseman with some pop to his bat. His 2005 in Trenton:


So he’s a big swinger, frequently mashing the ball or striking out, all while maintaining a decent walk total. He’ll start the season in Columbus, but there are a few younger first basemen nipping at his heels. Duncan, as I see it, is a career minor-leaguer.

But why am I talking about guys with no future? Isn’t the point to find guys who could be assets to the Yanks in the future, not lead weights? I just wanted to demonstrate that I’m not merely hyping up everyone in the organization. There are guys with big numbers that I don’t feel are going to make it because of other factors (age, transitions to higher levels, striking out at a ridiculous pace). But from now on, I promise to stick to the guys I’m going to follow this season.

In an effort to save space and words, I’m going to list everyone’s stats before doing my commentary thing.

Melky CabreraAA426.275.322.411.047.1365.92
Bronson SardinhaAA503.258.338.398.080.1404.37
Eric DuncanAA451.235.326.408.091.1733.31
Mike VentoAAA501.291.365.445.074.1545.22
Wil NievesAAA380.289.313.395.024.10610.0

Let’s start at the top. Yes, Melky was a ball-masher in Trenton, but his premature promotion to the majors may have had a lingering effect, hence his numbers in Columbus. Word around the media is that his failed stint in NY has motivated him, and that he’s tearing up the Dominican League. His Isolated Power number figures to go up, as guys who are 21 years old tend to add some bulk at this phase of life. But his Isolated Discipline worries me, since I’m slowly learning that this is not an acquired trait. True, not every major league starter has to walk 80 times a season, but taking a pitch is an invaluable skill for power hitters.

The next name may be unfamiliar to some. Hell, it was unfamiliar to me when I first saw it, as my first reaction was, “a guy named Bronson? Guess we have to compete with Boston any way we can.” His raw numbers aren’t perfect, but his isolated marks beg for consideration. He’s only 22 years old, which is always a boon with prospects. Obviously, he’ll be a fun one to follow, since he certainly could make significant progress this year, whether with Trenton or Columbus. The downside for his 2008 potential: yet another outfielder. With Matsui and Damon still under contract at that point, many of these prospects may find themselves stuck in the minors or playing for other teams by that time.

Do I really need to get into a schtick on Eric Duncan? We all know he can hit the tar out of the ball, and any Yankees fan is privy to his Arizona Fall League MVP award. They say he’s starting the year at first base in AAA, so we’ll get to see him tested rather quickly. I just wish they’d nurture him just a bit more and start him in Trenton. But what do I know?

The final two names were plucked from the Columbus roster, and while I don’t see a real future for any of them, I figured I’d at least mention them. Mike Vento saw a few ABs in September, and could be an injury fill-in should one of the outfielders go down. Other than that, he’s probably going to sit in Columbus for the remainder of his career.

Nieves is interesting, mainly because he’s an outcast of the Angels system. His numbers are far less than stellar, but 1) he’s a catcher and 2) Derrick Turnbow and Bobby Jenks are also Angels rejects. Sure, the latter reason means absolutely squat for Nieves’s actual potential, but it’s nice to mention. Who knows, though. Maybe he’ll blossom in the next year or two, but that’s doubtful, considering he’s 28 and has little major league experience. But there’s always wishful thinking. Never overestimate the power of wishful thinking.

I’ll list the stats for two pitchers, since the rest of the “prospects” consist of guys like Sean Henn, Jorge DePaula (who will NEVER amount to anything), and Colter Bean.

Matt DeSalvo25AA149.
Matt Smith26AA54.29.713.790.332.80

Smith looks like the better prospect, since he’s a lefty reliever (always a help for any team). His numbers translated well from AA to AAA, except that he let up three dingers over 27.2 innings in Columbus. However, that could just be him adjusting to the higher level of play. This notion is reinforced by his increased walks per nine total. We’ll see how he reacts to an entire season of AAA, and possible a call up to the big show in the case of an injury. The signings of Mike Myers and Ron Villone may impede Smith’s progress this year, but they’re geezers and he’s the young buck. Look for him in 2007.

DeSalvo is a righty starter who could also see some time up in the majors after Jaret Wright goes in for shoulder replacement surgery. I’d advocate him over Jorge DePaula 100 times out of 100, but I’m not so sure Torre and Cashman agree. In any case, DeSalvo will surely be a starter in Columbus this year, and hopefully he can make the leap like Smith did last year.

Well, I’m just breathing hot air now, so I’ll wrap up the Quest for the 2008 Roster. I’m trying to work out a system for organizing the two dozen or so players I’m going to track this season, so you can easily see their progress on the main page of the website. You can read Baseball America’s thoughts on the issue here, though they spurn some of the prospects I find most enticing. I’ll also be posting updates from those folks as I see them regarding these players.