Monday, April 17, 2006

Off day

I elected to take the day off yesterday, as I was spending the holiday with my family. I hope everyone who celebrates Easter enjoyed it. I certainly did.

I caught little bits of the game. Things are definately looking good. Home runs by Cano (who before tonight hadn't shown a lot of power this season), Arod, and two by Giambi. Jeter and Damon continue to roll. Sheffield has shown signs of breaking out of his slump, though he would be encouraging to see him take his normal quota of walks. Wang had his best outing of his Yankee career, going 7 inning and allowing only two earned runs, while striking out 8 and walking none.

In honor of Wang, I'd like to talk a little bit about the Yankee farm system. Wang and Cano were the first of what hopefully soon will be many recent home grown Yankees. I'd like to focus in on two farmhands today: the Yankees top two prospects, Phil Hughes and Jose Tabata.

Tabata is one of those child prodigies. In a different context, Tabata would be solving the Gordian knot at age 6, doing calculus at 7, and disproving E=MC2 at 10. In baseball terms, he's a 17 year old tearing up every aspect of A ball. To put that into perspective, Robinson Cano (who also signed at age 16), was still in rookie ball at age 18.

Tabata has the highest ceiling of any position prospect in the minor leagues. At a young age he shows the ability to hit for power (currently leading A ball in doubles and RBIs), average (Currently leading A ball with a .390 average, and batted .314 last year), discipline (had more walks than strikeouts last year), speed (25 SBs in just 197 minor league at bats), range in the outfield (he's been compared to Andruw Jones in that regard), and a cannon for an arm (compared to Ichiro ). Oh, and he turns 18 in August. Yeah, that is what a super-prospect looks like.

What is his ETA? Well, it depends on what the organization wants to do with him. If he does not stumble significantly, Tabata could progress to High A ball by mid season (It looks like Tim Battle may be sent down to Charleston, which opens an outfield spot for Tabata), and maybe even grab a spot at AA by the season's end. If that happens, the majors are only a good spring training or AAA performance away. I'd like to cautiously project that he will be ready by early 2008, at which time he'll be just 19 years old.

When Tabata is not your organization's top prospect, your in luck. Phil Hughes, the 19 year old (20 in June) fireballer, holds that honor. If Tabata looks like Andruw Jones, Hughes looks like Curt Schilling. He throws in the mid to high 90s (touching 97 on occasion), with pinpoint control (one walk in 10 innings this year, only 21 in his 101 career minor league innings). He strikes people out at very good rate (9.7 per 9), and has yet to allow a run in his first two starts (2.19 career minor league ERA). Oh yeah, Hughes looks good.

He's spent some time on the disabled list, but the Yankees were merely being cautious with him. Some have said that in a less cautious organization, Hughes would be in the majors this year. The sky is the limit for Hughes. He has the power, control, and secondary pitches to be as good as his model, Curt Schilling. He could be ready as soon as next year, as he is expected to move up to AA Trenton after a few more starts. Hughes is by far the best pitching prospect at the A ball level, and has been labled as high as the 2nd best pitching prospect in baseball.

The Yankee farm is looking good. On other off days, I'll write about some other highlights.