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Fantasy Notes: Down on the Yankee Farm

August 24, 2006 | By RotoRob | comment on this post

Let’s have a look at some minor leaguers today. Just because I feel like it.

  • Kevin Nelson, a Yankee minor league catcher playing at Low-A Charleston, hit his first homer of the year and just the second of his pro career on the weekend. It’s hard to call Nelson a prospect, considering he went undrafted, is 25 and had hit .214 in 49 pro game heading into this season. But in part-time play this season, he’s batting over .300, showing great strike zone judgment and has fine looking percentages (.439 OBP, .465 SLG for a sweet 904 OPS). Of course, Nelson is way too old for the level he’s at. Send him up to High-A and give him some real PT before we’ll even write his name on our “kids to watch” list.
  • Another Yankees farmhand that needs a new challenge is first baseman Ben Jones. He started the season at High-A, but after a .125 start through 40 at-bats, it was back down to Charleston to repeat the level. Through 339 at-bats, Jones is batting .286 with 55 runs and nice power numbers (14 doubles, a team-leading 20 homers, 75 RBI). He’s shown good patience with 54 walks and his 925 OPS suggests he’s ready for another crack at a higher level. But Jones, the Yanks’ 14th rounder in 2004, is also 25, and he’s hitting just .255 since the All-Star break after batting .329 in the first half. While he’s improved over last year’s 14-homer showing at Low-A ball, this two-time Southland Conference All-Star needs to get back to High-A pronto to have a shot at a career. Jones, by the way, got the win when he had to pitch two shutout innings in a 13-inning marathon contest earlier in the week, so if the bat doesn’t pan out, perhaps he’ll have a future on the mound. The pitching staff was stretched thin as it was their third straight game of at least 12 innings, so Jones was needed.
  • Second baseman Tony Roth also had to pitch in relief for Charleston in that game. This is actually the second time Roth has been called on to throw in an emergency situation, also working in a late-May contest that went 18 innings. The 23-year-old hit .500 in five games at Staten Island of the NYPL to start the year, but in 46 games and 114 at-bats at Charleston, he’s batting under the Mendoza Line. Roth, a star at Creighton (two-time MVC All-Star and the 2002 conference Freshman of the Year), has a great batting eye (24 BB/21 K), but no power to speak of. He looks like an organizational player in the making.
  • Shortstop Eduardo Nunez has failed to take a leap forward this year. After a tremendous season in 2005 when he had a .365 OBP as an 18-year-old playing in the NYPL, Nunez soared up the Yankee prospect lists. The team was very aggressive with him, sending him all the way to High-A to start the 2006 campaign. It didn’t work out well, as Nunez struggled with the stick, batting just .184 with five doubles but just a .340 slugging percentage. Since being demoted to Charleston, Nunez has been only marginally better, batting .221 in 79 games with 40 strikeouts and a horrible .290 slugging percentage. He’s got great speed, however, with 15 steals against just five times caught. The switch-hitting Nunez hits lefties better, but that’s not saying much at this point (.235). Still, we’re talking about a 19-year-old with great speed and high average potential that plays a premium position and is in his first year of full-season ball. (Can you tell RotoRob drafted him this year?) I truly believe he’s a name worth tucking away.
  • Another shortstop in the Sally League is Ofilio Castro, playing for Washington’s affiliate, the Savannah Sand Gnats. Castro, who turned 23 last week, is repeating the level but has actually regressed from his 2005 performance when he hit .261 with a 699 OPS. In 111 games and 416 at-bats this year, he’s batting under .250 with no power (.344 SLG), but showing a very good batting eye that suggests he could hit for a higher average. Castro was signed by the Expos in 2000 out of Nicaragua and came into this season just a .241 career hitter in 230 professional games. He’s got some speed (11 steals), but strangely is batting just .190 against lefties this year even though he’s a right-handed stick. Again, this suggests to me that he’s capable of much higher averages, so keep an eye on Castro.
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