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Minor Notes: Cox Returns, Duncan Impresses March 20, 2008

Posted by Pablo Zevallos in 2008 Spring Training, Eric Duncan, J. Brent Cox, Kevin Reese.
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  • J.B. Cox returned on the mound after missing a year with Tommy John Surgery, and threw in a minor-league game. He threw only fastballs and sliders–no changeups–and felt good. He is at Hi-A Tampa, and will advance to AAA S/W-B when the weather is appropriate.
  • Eric Duncan has impressed in Minor League games. Per Chad Jennings’s box scores, he is 4-14 (.286) with a HR, 3 RBIs, 1 BB, and 4 K’s in 4 games. Not bad.
  • Kevin Reese has returned to the Yankees…as as scout. Reese last played in 2007 with S/W-B, but retired after finishing the year on the DL and being released. He will now scout the Sally and Appalachian Leagues for the Yanks.

What can the Yankees do with the Rule 5 draft? November 24, 2007

Posted by Pablo Zevallos in Chris Lubanski, Dan Smith, Eric Duncan, Frankie Cervelli, Jeff Marquez, Marcos Vechionacci, Michael Gardner, PJ Piliterre, Rule 5 Draft, Steven Jackson.
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So here is the second in a series of segments on MLB and Yankees questions:

What can the Yankees do with the Rule 5 draft?

Well, to begin, Rule 5 eligibility is when a player that was signed or drafted at 18 or younger did so 5 years ago, or when a player that was signed or drafted did so 4 years ago, and is not on the 40 man roster. The Yankees have several players eligible–Francisco Cervelli, Jeff Marquez, Steven White, PJ Piliterre, Eric Duncan, Marcos Vechionacci, Steven Jackson, and Michael Gardner. The first three were protected on the 40-man roster, and the deadline to set the roster was midnight on Tuesday. That means that Piliterre, Duncan, Vechionacci, Jackson, and Gardner are eligible. Piliterre projects best as a Brad Ausmus-type–that is, a low-batting average, great defensive catcher. At worst, he can be a Wil Nieves type. If he is taken, there is no real loss there. Duncan, thus far, is a 1st round bust from 2003, but he is young for his level (AAA) and should have been protected, as the kid has potential to be a solid ML-first basebman. However, due to the time he takes to adjust to a new level, he likely won’t make it through 2008 on another team. He will likely be taken and returned, so no biggie there. “Nacci” is a raw player with an amazing glove but developing bat. He has yet to be consistently above HiA, so he won’t hit much if he is selected. However, he could always be selected in the AAA or AA phases. Jackson struggled largely in his transition from sinkerballer to power pitcher, but did better in AA and could eventually be a decent middle reliever. However, there are other, better prospects who can do the same thing better. Gardner is just an older, non-prospect, organizational player. No loss here.

On the other hand, talking of the protected guys, Cervelli, who has only played as high as HiA Tampa, was protected mainly because the Nationals selected Jesus Flores, also a catcher, from the Mets system, and he did well for the Nats. Besides, he is ready enough to be the 3rd catcher on the 40-man roster, anyway. Marquez is probably on the 40-man to be able to serve as a replacement-level starter for 2008, or to be traded for a heating-up Johan Santana deal. White, once the best pitching prospect in the system, has had an injury-ravaged minor-league career and has struggled while adjusting to new levels. However, he is able to help out the Yankees in the bullpen next year, a weak spot in the bigs.

Now, Mike over at River Ave. Blues has a great post at who the Yankees can take in the Rule 5 draft. None of the lower-profile guys intrigued me more than a fairly young lefty named Dan Smith, from the Braves. This is what he had to say on Smith:

He backs his low-90’s heat with a great changeup, although he struggles to spin his breaking ball consistently. He comes over-the-top and uses a huge downhill plane, which makes him tough to hit (7.00 Hper9 career) and is the main reason he’s given up only 18 homers in 338 career innings.

Smith’s biggest pitfall is that his command comes and goes, as he’ll rack up big walk totals (4.36 BBper9) to go along with big strikeout totals (9.74 Kper9).

Not bad, and the Yankees can fix him out. At least he will cost less and his peripherals are more honest than those of 36-year-old Ron Mahay, whom the Yankees are reportedly pursuing.

Of the high profile players–well, of the only one, really, it would also be nice if the Yankees can get the #5 overall pick from 2003, Chris Lubanski, from the Royals.

Val Majewski, the prospect/suspect of the Baltimore Orioles, is also eligible. I’d take a pass.

Top 30 Prospects: #15 Eric Duncan November 22, 2007

Posted by Pablo Zevallos in Eric Duncan, Top 30 Prospects.
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Age: 22 (23 in December)
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 205 lbs
Drafted: 1st round, 2003, out of Seton Hall Prep (HS)
Position: 1st
Bats: Left

Tools: Duncan, like Suttle, is no mega-athlete, but is no Jason Giambi either. Duncan is a line-drive hitter to all fields, and the Yankees, when they tried to make him a pull-happy slugger, resulted in him having horrible years. He has gap power with a decent amount of homers. Duncan is a very selective hitter, but also strikes out a lot. His defense is passable at 1B.

Performance: Duncan, as in the previous two years, has a back-problem that limits his swing and offensive abilities. That also contributed to his unproductive 2005 and 2006. However, he was healthier this year, hitting .241 after an ice-cold start, with 11 HRs and 61 RBIs in 113 games. He owned a .323 OBP and .389 SLG in 411 ABs. Not bad, again, considering his ice-cold start. His move to 1B upon the Alex Rodriguez trade also heightened his back problems.

Outlook: I am a believer. And this case is no different. I think that Duncan, who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year but will be unprotected, will be a solid major leaguer if he can ever be healthy. He is also productive when healthy, but struggles mightily when not. He is no longer a major part of the Yankees plans for the future, with Juan Miranda now being the top 1B prosepct in the system, but he shouldn’t be given up on so quickly. However, he can a flame-out after a couple of productive years.

Ceiling: B+, Health: C, Comparison: Erubiel Durazo at best

Yankees Eliminated, Torre’s Future in Doubt October 14, 2007

Posted by Pablo Zevallos in Austin Jackson, Brett Gardner, Chien-Ming Wang, Eric Duncan, Humberto Sanchez, Ian Kennedy, J. Brent Cox, Joba Chamberlain, Joe Torre, Johan Santana, Jose Tabata, Postseason, Ross Ohlendorf.
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Due to the lack of updating, again, I haven’t mentioned a key event–the Yankees were eliminated. Now, this team had a couple of questions with them–Chien-Ming Wang (after the first game and based on his only other performance against Cleveland), the potential need to overuse Joba with a badly-timed slump by the Viz and the constant ineffectiveness of Farnsworth, and the revitalization of the offense after facing two Cy Young candidates. I felt that if the Yankees would have found a way to win this series, they were going all the way. Of course, they didn’t, and they are now stuck looking forward to Spring Training.

This loss doesn’t hurt as much as others, a point on which I agree on with the folks at the Bronx Block. Yes, what could have been is intriguing, but in a way, I was looking forward to see the likes of Marcos V. (can’t spell his last name), Eric Duncan, Juan Miranda, Ross Ohlendorf, and Alan Horne get their appropriate roles assigned, as well as seing Humberto Sanchez and J. Brent Cox come back from elbow surgery and win bullpen spots. There’s also David Robertson seemingly coming out of nowhere. Then there’s Jose Tabata, AJax, and Brett Gardner getting to big league camp and going off to their appropriate levels (that is, Tabata-AA, AJax–AA, Gardner–AAA/MLB). And, most obviously, I look forward to Mike Mussina being gone, Chien-Ming Wang packaged with Jeff Marquez or someone else for Johan Santan (just dreaming…), and Phil Hughes, Joba, and IPK winning rotation spots. Yankee fans, whether this loss is disheartening or not, there is a very bright future ahead of us.

Joe Torre’s future is also in doubt. If he leaves, I am ambivalent, because as nice a guy he is with great people skills, he’s 67 and won’t manage forever. That said, I am not thrilled with the Phil Garners or, until yesterday, Dusty Bakers of the world. Tony LaRussa, as a scout told the Daily News the other day, is not a long-term solution with horrible people skills. Don Mattingly probably needs another year or two as bench coach to be ready to manage, and Joe Girardi’s problems with Florida ownership scare me. The best bet is Torre for two years.

Top Yankees’ Hitting Prospects July 26, 2007

Posted by Pablo Zevallos in Brett Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Eric Duncan, Jesus Montero, Jose Tabata, Juan Miranda, Justin Snyder, Mitch Hilligoss, Tim Battle.

I am just listing the Yankees’ hitting prospects, without scouting reports. (Name, position, level)

1. Jose Tabata, OF, A+
2. Jesus Montero, C, GCL
3. Juan Miranda, 1B, AA
4. Mitch Hilligoss, 3B, A
5. Eduardo Nunez, SS, A
6. Brett Gardner, CF, AAA
7. Justin Snyder, 2B, Short-season A
8.. Gerardo Rodriguez, C/1B, RK
9. Tim Battle, OF, A+
10. Josue Calzado, RF, A
11. Marcos Vechionnaci, SS/3B, A+
12. Francisco Cervelli, C, A+
13. Eric Duncan, 1B, AAA
14. Bronson Sardhina, OF, AAA