Although the minor league season still young (as are the prospects), I thought this would be a good opportunity to check i and see how some of the Baby Bombers are acquitting themselves so far. So far, it has not been a very impressive season for the Yankees’ upper level prospects, but the class A Charleston Riverdogs have been doing some serious work on both sides of the ball.
Manny Banuelos has had a forgettable start to the season, lasting only a combined 5 1/3 innings in 2 starts. In his first outing, he gave up 4 runs on 11 hits and 1 walk, while in the second he gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and a whopping 6 walks. After the second outing, Banuelos was placed on the DL with a back injury. While the injury is not believed to be serious, it could be a possible explanation for his early struggles, particularly the utter inability to find the plate in his latest outing. Command was a big issue for Banuelos last year, so it would be nice to see some improvement
Dellin Betances has had similar problems with command and hitability, but unlike Banuelos he has no injury excuse. In 3 starts, Betances has thrown 13 innings, giving up 18 runs on 15 hits, 11 walks, and 13 strikeouts. It seems that Dellin’s old mechanical problems may be rearing their ugly head once again, but hopefully pitching coach Scott Aldred can help him iron things out.
Zoilo Almonte is off to a solid, but not earthshattering, .282/.326/.462 start through 11 games for Trenton, with 2 homers and 3 walks balanced by 14 strikeouts. It’s nice to see him hitting pretty well out of the gate, but in this small sample the plate discipline is not that impressive.
Almonte’s teammate Brett Marshall has had one good outing and one bad outing, giving up 7 runs combined in 9 innings of work, with 5 walks and 5 strikeouts. The walk total is a little high given the lack of strikeouts, and so far Marshall has not kept the ball on the ground like he usually does (0.4 GO/AO). That said, it is plenty early, and I’m sure Marshall will straighten things out.
Heading down to Tampa, JR Murphy is off to a slow start, posting a weak .212/.297/.361 line while getting significant playing time at catcher. He does have 1 home run in 9 games played, with 4 walks and 7 strikeouts. While the early results haven’t been there, the walk total could be indicative that he is maintaining a solid approach at the dish.
If Murphy is feeling any pressure, it could be because of what Gary Sanchez and his Charleston teammates have done to Sally League pitching. Sanchez, whom I predicted could be a fast riser this year, has come out of the gate looking to prove that he is too advanced for low-A pitching with a .385/.442/.487 line. Sanchez has yet to homer this year, but has swatted 4 doubles and stolen 2 bases on the season. He has 10 strikeouts and 4 walks, indicating that strikeouts could still be a problem for him going forward.
While impressive, Sanchez’s performance has entirely been overshadowed by Tyler Austin, who has straight up murdered the ball this season. After going 0 for 4 on opening day, Austin has hits (often of the extra-base variety) in 8 straight games, giving him a .444/.487/1.028 (not a typo) line on the season. Of Austin’s 16 hits on the season, 11 have gone for extra bases, including 3 home runs, 4 doubles, and 4 triples. It’s not surprising to see Austin hit well because he has raked at every level in his minor league career, but I don’t think anybody could have predicted that he would get off to this hot of a start. He has played mostly in right field this season, but I am not sure if this means that they have given up on using him at 3rd base, or if they are moving him in deference to Dante Bichette.
Speaking of Dante Bichette, he is off to a decent start as well, putting up a .317/.378/.390 line. The power hasn’t shown up yet this year, but it’s nice to see him showcasing his pure hitting ability in the early going.
Mason Williams has also been solid in the early going, putting up a .327/.340/.490 line with 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 6 stolen bases. He has also flashed his athleticism in the outfield, making some nice plays and showing some great range. Overall, this is more or less what we expected out of Williams this year, but it is nice to see him avoid an early slump.
Angelo Gumbs and Cito Culver have struggled out of the gate, especially in comparison to their teammates. Gumbs, despite his drool-worthy bat speed, has only managed a .182/.270/.212 line on the year, but even that is better than Culver’s .128/.261/.128 effort thus far. It is worth mentioning that these guys are significantly younger than most of the other hitting prospects on the team (except Sanchez), so it is natural to expect some early difficulties.
On the pitching side, Jose Campos has been as good as advertised, giving up just 1 run on 5 hits and 4 walks in 16 innings of work, with 18 strikeouts. The Yankees seem like they are limiting his innings/pitch count in the early going, but that has not prevented him from making quick work of the opposition. He has been working mostly with the fastball, but mixing in his curve and changeup as well.
Overshadowed by Campos, Bryan Mitchell has been up and down in his two starts. Mitchell had a strong season debut followed by a disastrous outing where he could not find the plate. Overall, in 8 innings of work, Mitchell has given up 2 runs on 2 hits and 7 walks (6 of which came in the second start), with 7 strikeouts (6 of which came in the first start).
While the guys at the top have been largely disappointing, Charleston alone has provided plenty of excitement for this prospect follower. It will be interesting to see how long this super-team remains intact, because it is very possible that guys like Sanchez, Campos, and Austin could wind up getting promoted to Tampa at some point. Charleston roadtrip anybody?
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