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Prospect Watch: Christian Garcia, Shaeffer Hall, and Zoilo Almonte



By Joseph Delgrippo ~ April 25th, 2012. Filed under: Digest Contributors, Yanks Minors.

I made a trip out to Trenton this past Saturday for a rare 5:05 start to watch the Thunder play host to the Washington Nationals Double-A affiliate, Harrisburg Senators.

Some seasons have seen Thunder manager Tony Franklin blessed with tremendous pitching staffs with zero hitting, and other seasons have seen him write in a tremendous lineup while wondering if his pitchers can limit the opposition to single digits.

This year he has both hitting and pitching somewhere in the middle.

On the mound for the Thunder was left hander Shaeffer Hall.

As a 25th round draft pick out of Kansas, Hall appeared nothing more than a sturdy arm for the organization. But I saw him throw two years ago in Charleston and Tampa and saw a pitcher with pretty good control and command, with pitching smarts to know how to attack hitters.

This pitching intelligence is much needed as Hall doesn’t throw overly hard. He was usually 88-89 in 2010, but was pretty much 84-86 all day long on Saturday. However, he is in his second season of throwing a cutter (with slider tilt and movement), which he can get in on the hands of right handed hitters.

It was this pitch and his changeup which kept hitters off balance and grounding the ball towards the extremely organizational infield the Thunder put out that day.

Hall is a pitcher who relies on changing speeds and location. He needs an umpire to give him the calls on the corners, then can work from there to expand the zone and get batters to chase pitches. This requires him to constantly get ahead and stay ahead of the hitter, which is always a good thing. If Hall gets an umpire with a tight zone, he has to come over the plate more and his stuff likely will not translate to quality outings.

A perfect example is when Hall tried to come inside to Jeff Kobernus, the Senators second baseman. Kobernus just missed powering two balls out of spacious Waterfront Park, but each drive was held up by a stiff wind, which allowed both deep drives to fall harmlessly into the glove of the Thunder left fielder.

Hall is a nice kid but his style doesn’t appear to be what the Yankees hierarchy likes in their starting pitchers. With injuries and ineffectiveness to hard throwers like Michael Pineda, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos and the 2011 released Andrew Brackman, maybe the Yankees should change their preferences to pitchers rather than throwers.

The Yankees also let Francisco Rondon throw the final inning, and he allowed a deep drive home run to center by Senators LF Chris Rahl (who had 3 RBI & was a double short of the cycle). Rondon was fluid with a fastball with some life, usually 89-91, and hit 93. He showed a pretty good slider (82-83), which he wasn’t able to control and a decent changeup, but which had a tendency to stay up.

Rondon has been in the organization since 2006 and has become less hittable as he has moved up, but also shown an increased inability to throw strikes. The way teams can always use hard throwing left handed relievers, Rondon has a chance to progress further but need to trust his stuff more.

Luke Murton has three hits on the day, but showed total pull tendencies, similar to what I saw in Charleston in 2010. His swing is mostly arms and upper body, barely using his lower half. I saw him reach for quite a few pitches during the day, out front but still put the good part of the bat on the ball indicating pretty good eye, hand coordination. He is a hard worker who is constantly working in the cage and oftentimes off a tee just minutes before a game, and has the personality and build of former Yankee Shelley Duncan.

Cody Johnson was a former first round pick for the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and came to the Yankees in a minor league trade. He had shown a tremendous ability in the past to swing and miss*, and this was attributed to a severe hitch which caused him to not get around on good fastballs. He also was susceptible on breaking stuff, especially when behind in the count. However, he has eliminated the hitch by keeping his hands really low, behind his back hip. They do come up slightly during his load, but not that much higher. This keeps Johnson’s path to the ball much quicker allowing him to wait longer on pitch recognition.

*Johnson’s strikeout rate has increased each season as a pro, going from 34% in 2008, to 35% in 2009, 39% in 2010 to 41% last year.

In one at bat, Johnson basically flicked his wrists the way Rod Carew used to for a nice line drive single to left center. In two other at bats, Johnson showed good power to left field (going with the pitch) putting balls to the warning track, one which likely would have been out for a booming homer if not for the strong wind blowing in.

He does hit the ball very hard when he makes contact, and with his new hand placement he has made better contact. I still believe better fastballs will eat him up inside (he was never tested inside during this game), but with his changes and improved contact rate (30% K rate thus far) while still hitting for power, he is someone to keep an eye on.

Zoilo Almonte, the 22 year old switch hitting outfielder who impressed Joe Girardi in spring training, is on the disable list and did not play. I saw him last year and he appeared overmatched in the couple games I saw. But, a la Brett Gardner, Zoilo does have a track record of struggling at a level when first promoted, then improving considerably when he returns to start at that same level the following year.

The Senators had a few guys impress who I had not seen before. The aforementioned Kobernus, a second baseman is very quick to the ball. He stands very quiet at the plate until he unleashes a very quick swing, going direct to the ball. His swing has some loft which provided nice backspin. As I said earlier, he would have had two long home runs if not for the wind.  He also showed pretty good speed down the line on a ground ball. At same body type (6-2, 210 or so), the position he plays, and the fact they attended the same school (Cal), Kobernus reminds me of Jeff Kent. He might not hit with the power Kent developed but Kobernus can hit the ball, which will be his ticket to the higher levels.

Destin Hood is a former second round pick for the Nationals, one of those highly athletic “toolsy” guys who never seem to work out because they really don’t become baseball players. They don’t develop the instincts and work ethic to improve and advance beyond just playing the game. Hood has changed for the better since I saw him last in 2010 in the Low-A Sally League. Hood showed great bat speed and foot speed, easily beating out a slow roller to third base, and easily scored from first on ground ball down the left field line.

In his second at bat, Hood got behind two strikes, but calmly stayed off a cutter low and in from Hall. While Hood eventually struck out a better version of that pitch, he was on the ball with a good swing. Hood is aggressive at the plate, but has shown an improved ability to attack better pitches and to stay away from off speed stuff out of the zone.

That is a good combination.

The right hander who closed the game out in the Senators 4-01 win was former Trenton Thunder pitcher Christian Garcia. The tall right hander was one of the Yankees top starting pitching prospects a few years ago, but injuries (two Tommy John surgeries) and a lack of desire to work hard hampered his career. He is back now as a reliever, and now healthy, continues to possess a tremendous repertoire including an easy fastball at 93-94, moving it easily around the zone. I remember a few years ago that Garcia had a tendency to sometimes overthrow his fastball (maybe why he was always injured?), but it was no longer the case – at least in this game. He also threw a solid hook and plus, plus major league quality change up.

The change up has always been Garcia’s out pitch, and he uses it extensively, playing is very nicely off his solid fastball keeping his arm speed the same on both pitches. Both his strikeouts this game came on change ups, making the Thunder hitters look foolish. According to a couple Senators players, Garcia has been tremendous all season, with his changeup getting swings and misses on most occasions. It is a pitch which doesn’t necessarily need to stay down to be effective, as it is almost impossible to recognize early. I asked about his desire and work ethic (not his strong suit in his Yankee career), and both said they have not seen any slacking on his work habits.

Garcia showed good bite and downward action on his curveball, a plus pitch which he appears now to throw in basically offering something else to the hitter. Garcia was very popular when he played in Trenton, and many of the locals were glad to see him back healthy and performing well.

If he stays healthy Garcia could move quickly towards a bullpen spot with the major league club.

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Joseph Delgrippo is an aspiring sportswriter and TV baseball analyst. He played NCAA baseball, at tiny Marietta (OH) College, participating in the Division 3 World Series. In addition, he's coached baseball at the high school level. His knowledge of this game goes far beyond what is shown on television.

33 Responses to Prospect Watch: Christian Garcia, Shaeffer Hall, and Zoilo Almonte

  1. Chuck

    Good stuff Joe..doesn’t sound like you got to see much talent.

  2. Stu B

    Interesting look at the Yankees system, which seems to be written about at least twice a week on here. Mike, why don’t you guys provide similar coverage of the Mets system?

  3. Mike Silva

    I have a piece going up later in the week about some Mets stuff

  4. Stu B

    That’s great, but it seems like there’s stuff about the Yankees’ system on the site much more often than about the Mets’ system. I could be wrong, but that’s my impression.

  5. Chuck Johnson

    “Mike, why don’t you guys provide similar coverage of the Mets system?”

    Simple answer, Stu.

    The Mets don’t have a system.

  6. Stu B

    Of course they do, Chuck.

  7. Chuck Johnson

    OK, if you say so.

  8. Mike Silva

    Most of the Mets system is playing at Citi Field. They have been underrated for years in my opinion.

    Honestly, I take most of the rankings and internet “scout-speak” very lightly because, quite frankly, it’s shown to be highly inaccurate.

    Impossible to predict how most of these kids will develop.

  9. Stu B

    But why does it seem that there’s not the kind of in-depth analysis of guys in the Mets system – Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Cesar Puello, Jenrry Mejia, Reese Havens, Michael Fulmer, Wilmer Flores, Juan Lagares, Danny Muno, Pedro Zapata, Bradley Marquez, Darin Gorski, Albert Cordero, etc. – that you regularly feature for guys in the Yankees system?

  10. Stu B

    BTW Chuck, you just sound ignorant and not the least bit clever when you make stupid cracks like that.

  11. Chuck Johnson

    Mike,

    You’re right, of course, there is nothing more subjective than trying to predict how successful a mentally and physically immature 18 year old will perform as a major leaguer when he’s 25.

    There are so many factors which will impact his progression, none of which will be impacted by what any of us say or write.

    Stu, do you know who Addison Reed is?

    He’s a relief pitcher who is the number one prospect in the White Sox system. On the various Keith Law/Kevin Goldstein/BA top 100 lists, Reed was at or near the bottom, and in some cases wasn’t listed at all.

    Nobody writes about him because he’s not any good, the fact he’s the best prospect in a bad system is irrelevant.

    Harvey and Wheeler have a chance to be top pitchers. Fulmer is a sleeper for me, I really like him, as I do Havens. He’s a Danny Espinosa clone who would easily put this Daniel Murphy at second base nonsense to rest if he can ever stay healthy. Brandon Nimmo could be a middle of the order impact type player, but is probably three years ago at best.

    There’s no one else in the organization worth talking about.

    That’s why there’s no “in-depth analysis”.

  12. Chuck Johnson

    “BTW Chuck, you just sound ignorant and not the least bit clever when you make stupid cracks like that”

    How would you describe that crack, Stu?

  13. Mike Silva

    Stu

    Jed has taken the torch for the Yankees MILB reporting, the lack of Mets analysis is nothing more than I haven’t published something…yet

    There will be regular MILB content for the Mets, as we will see Independent League stories, as well.

  14. Stu B

    Of course I know about Addison Reed, Chuck, as do many serious fans. And my remark was simply a response to your hostile, idiotic, unprovoked crack. Why are you such an angry and condescending individual?

  15. Chuck

    So you counter by responding with a hostile, idiotic unprovoked attack?

    And that’s a pretty big accusation to be making of someone you don’t know.

  16. Stu B

    Hey Chuck, you started the BS with your stupid crack about the Mets not having a farm system. And your comments on here and the way other folks respond to them indicate that you have anger issues. Also, it’s really not cool to be so condescending.

  17. Chuck

    “Hey Chuck, you started the BS with your stupid crack about the Mets not having a farm system.”

    They don’t have a system, Stu, and your opinion isn’t going to change that, unless you have input on the Mets’ draft.

    “And your comments on here and the way other folks respond to them indicate that you have anger issues”

    No, it suggests THEY have anger issues.

  18. Stu B

    I know Chuck, it’s always somebody else with a problem, never you.

  19. Chuck

    You’re the one complaining…

    BA rates the Mets’s system at 24th out of 30.

    I guess in your mind 24th is good, I don’t know.

    Here’s an idea…instead of bitching and whining at me about my opinion on the Mets’ system, and at Mike for his apparent favoritism of the Yankees’ prospect, why don’t you get off your ass and write something yourself?

    Put your money where your mouth is.

  20. Stu B

    I haven’t written anything for publication since I left the newspaper biz in the late 1990s, but if Mike asks, I’d be happy to.

  21. Joseph DelGrippo

    Stu,

    You mean Mets prospect stuff like this:

    http://nybaseballdigest.com/2011/08/14/matt-harvey-less-than-impressive-in-double-a/

    which was written last August?

    I also wrote reports of Mets guys from the AFL in 2010, where I met Chuck for the first time. He was neither condescending, ignorant, or angry towards me at all. Lol. I saw and reported on Josh Satin, Jordany Valdespin and Robert Carson.

    The reason why there is more Yankee prospect stuff on here than Mets stuff is Jed covers the Trenton Thunder as part of his minor league coverage. Also, I follow the Yankees and get to see their guys quite often, especdially in Trenton which is 40 minutes form me.

    I also go to Lakewood to see the Low A Sally league, so when the Yankees guys come through (or amybody else who is highly rated), I go see the teams. Charleston has come through each of the past four seasons, but not this year.

    Also, there are no Mets farm teams close to my area, and I have no desire to head up to Binghamton or Buffalo in the early spring. When the B-Mets do come to Trenton I usually take in a few games. And will report on their progress as I see it.

    If you would like to pay my expenses for a trip to Port St. Lucie to see who you feel are top guys down there, feel free to send a check to Mike. You could also finance a trip to Charleston in late June where I could see both local teams Low A affiliates.

  22. Chuck

    You don’t have to write an article, Stu.

    Just offer SOMETHING which supports your stance.

    You listed fourteen names and nothing to support your stance that they are top prospects or collectively give the Mets a top system.

    Like Joe said..feel free to take a road trip up to Buffalo or something and watch some games.

  23. Stu B

    Chuck, why do they have to have a top system to warrant coverage on a site about NY baseball? Ranked no. 13 by BA, the Yankees’ system is no great shakes either.

  24. Chuck

    “Chuck, why do they have to have a top system to warrant coverage on a site about NY baseball?”

    They don’t, but apparently none of the writers here WHO LIVE IN NEW YORK OR NEW JERSEY care enough to write about them. If the Mets had a Bryce Harper/Matt Moore type prospect, there would be more articles because there would be more to be excited about.

    And did you happen to see my Kirk Nieuwenhuis article from last week? Not bad for a guy who lives 3000 miles from CitiField, huh?

    “Ranked no. 13 by BA, the Yankees’ system is no great shakes either.”

    They’re sixth, but since we’re not counting…..

  25. Stu B

    “They’re sixth, but since we’re not counting”

    Wrong. They’re 13th, and thus no great shakes.
    http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/organization-talent-rankings/2012/2613155.html

  26. Chuck

    I’m holding the 2012 Handbook and the Yankees are sixth.

    So, all this does is justify what Joe and I have said before and what Mike said in his comment above, that prospect and organizational rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.

    I do know the Handbook was written before the Montero trade, and I do know BA and John Sickels among others update their rankings a couple of times a year, so that would also explain the difference.

    The fact these people change their minds and publish multiple lists does nothing more than to justify what Mike said.

  27. Stu B

    The BA site is up to date, with rankings as of 3/22…Maybe they change their minds, but if you give credence to their ranking of the Mets system, be consistent and do the same for the Yankees.

    Baseball America’s annual organization talent rankings evaluate the overall value of each system’s prospect-eligible players (no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings or 30 relief appearances in the major leagues, without regard to service time). Baseball America’s editors determined the rankings.

    1. Texas Rangers
    2. Kansas City Royals
    3. San Diego Padres
    4. Arizona Diamondbacks
    5. Toronto Blue Jays
    6. Seattle Mariners
    7. Oakland Athletics
    8. Tampa Bay Rays
    9. Boston Red Sox
    10. St. Louis Cardinals
    11. Pittsburgh Pirates
    12. Washington Nationals
    13. New York Yankees
    14. Chicago Cubs
    15. Atlanta Braves
    16. Cincinnati Reds
    17. Colorado Rockies
    18. Houston Astros
    19. Los Angeles Angels
    20. Minnesota Twins
    21. Baltimore Orioles
    22. San Francisco Giants
    23. Detroit Tigers
    24. Los Angeles Dodgers
    25. New York Mets
    26. Milwaukee Brewers
    27. Philadelphia Phillies
    28. Miami Marlins
    29. Cleveland Indians
    30. Chicago White Sox

  28. Chuck

    “Maybe they change their minds, but if you give credence to their ranking of the Mets system, be consistent and do the same for the Yankees.”

    The Yankees are overrated at 13, never mind 6. You must have me confused with every other homer on this site who thinks the Yankees have a good system.

    BA rankings in January: Mets, 24th

    In March..25th…so they suck worse now than three months ago?

    Good call, Stu

  29. Stu B

    I never said the Mets have a great system, just that it should have similar coverage to that of the Yankees.

  30. Chuck

    Chuck: “The Mets don’t have a system.”

    Stu: “Of course they do, Chuck.”

    Your backtracking skills are impressive.

    Can tell you used to be media..old habits are hard to break.

  31. Stu B

    I just said they have a system, I didn’t say anything about quality. You should read more carefully.

  32. Chuck Johnson

    You win Stu.

    Your back is so tight against the wall you’re making an impression, and all you got is my reading comprehension.

    I know what you meant by the statement.

    So does everyone else reading this.

    I said the Mets have no farm system.

    Your only defense to that statement was to call me ignorant, condescending, and to criticize my reading skills.

    Which, in reality, is your way of saying I’m right without actually saying I’m right.

    I’ve been doing this scouting/projecting stuff for a loooooonnnnggg time, Stu.

    As of right now, today, I’m right with what I said.

    I was right before I said it, otherwise, I wouldn’t have.

    You have offered NO contradicting evidence or opinion.

    Now might be a good idea to let the cat out or something.

    Today was an unusually tough day at the office, I’m not sure I would have gotten through without your humor, so, thanks for that.

    See, there was a silver lining, unintentional as it was.

  33. Chuck Johnson

    For what it’s worth, Stu, the cumulative W/L percentage of the Mets’ minor league franchises last year placed them eleventh of thirty teams.

    The Yankees placed fifteenth.

    And, yet, heading into this year, the Yanks organizational ranking was 18 spots higher than the Mets.

    Can you explain that?

    It’s because the rankings are based on the individual player, and not the team.

    In looking at BA’s top thirty, fourteen are pitchers.

    Eight are corner infielders or outfielders.

    Four are second baseman.

    The Mets have no shortstops or catchers.

    They have four centerfielders, three of whom are blocked by Brandon Nimmo.

    By contrast, the Yankees have twelve pitchers.

    They have at least one player at each position, which gives them flexibility, which counts.

    The Mets’ pitching is much better, which gives them a higher ranking.

    So, in reality, what you’re doing is ranking the Mets’ 16 position players against the Yankees 18.

    And that’s considering the fact, IMO, the top two position players between the two franchises are both Mets (Nimmo and Havens).

    So, when you consider the other 150 or so position players in the respective systems, the Yankees have a HUGH lead on individual talent.

    If you took the entire system and threw them into a pot like a stew (sorry, no pun intended) and pulled out the best five ingredients, they could all very well be Mets.

    But when considering the stew as a whole entity, the Yanks win…easily.

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