Staten Island Yankees Season In Review

The Staten Island Yankees had a disappointing season in 2014, finishing the year in third place in their division with a 37-38 record, eight and half games out of first place, which was their second straight sub-.500 season. We take a look at where was the team's greatest depth, which prospects stood out, which ones could be 'sleeper' prospects down the road, and more.

The Team

The Staten Island Yankees could never string together a winning streak this past season. In fact, their longest winning streak of the season was just a mere four games, and they strung together winning streaks of at least three games four other times during the year. Conversely, their longest losing streak of the season was only four games too. They were what they were, a .500 ball club.

Pitching-wise they did better than most, finishing second in the 14-team league in strikeouts with 661 [just five behind league-leader Brooklyn], ranked sixth in ERA [3.46] and WHIP ratio [1.37], but also walked the sixth most batters [226].

Offensively they were also towards the middle of the pack in the main categories, finishing seventh in runs scored [314] and ninth in batting average [.248] despite leading the league in doubles [149], finishing third in walks [245], and fourth in OPS [.686] and home runs [35].

The Greatest Depth

Just as was the case with their rookie-level teams, the Yankees had a relatively even split between their depth of position prospects and pitching prospects in Staten Island, although there is probably a slight edge towards the pitching prospect side of 'what if' candidates.

Top Pitching Prospects

The top pitcher on the staff was right-hander Ty Hensley. The former first round pick actually began the year rehabbing his way back from yet another surgery, most recently on his hip. He pitched all of four games for Staten Island this past season but quickly showed why he was so highly regarded before the injuries, posting a solid 3.86 ERA, striking out 17 batters in just 11 innings, and showing the plus fastball-plus curveball combination he was always reputed to have.

He has missed a lot of development time in his first two professional seasons while having a total of five surgeries, but the combination of 'now' stuff, overall command, and the promise of more to come is just too much to ignore. He just needs to stay healthy for an extended period of time so he can continue to develop because the top talent is already there.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

Outside of Hensley there really isn't a bonafide top pitching prospect from the Staten Island team, especially among their starting pitching prospects. Left-hander Jordan Montgomery, drafted in the fourth round this year out of the University of South Carolina, would be the next closest thing to a top prospect. Like Hensley he was on a strict pitch count this past season and pitched only in seven games, and put up some respectable numbers [3.38 ERA, 15 K's in 13.1 innings]. He doesn't throw overly hard, sitting mostly 90-92 mph, but he has two above average to plus secondary pitches and has the kind of veteran game that could allow him to initially move quickly through the minor leagues with a good deal of success. Think Daniel Camarena but perhaps with a tick more long-term potential.

Both right-handers Jordan Foley, this year's fifth round pick out of Central Michigan University, and Jonathan Holder, this year's sixth round pick out of Mississippi State University, have intriguing 'sleeper' potential. Both are former college relievers transitioning to the starting role and both have average to above average fastballs with solid secondary pitches at the beginning of their professional careers. It remains to be seen if they have what it takes to be long-term starters but both packages are solid enough that they have to be kept on the prospect radar, especially Foley whose 92-93 mph fastball has some late life.

In the bullpen the Staten Island Yankees boast a trio of 'sleeper' candidates in right-handers Joe Harvey and Matt Wotherspoon, and left-hander Rony Bautista. Both Harvey [19th round] and Wotherspoon [34th round] are former University of Pittsburgh power relievers who put up some solid numbers in their debut seasons this year. Both throw strikes with low-to-mid-90s heat, both have quality breaking balls with projection to them, and both have changeups that could improve in time too. Bautista, a 6-foot-7 Dominican native, can also sit in the 92-95 mph range and he has two secondary plus pitches that flash plus potential, but he just needs to throw more strikes and limit the walks [20 in 35.2 innings].

If you're looking for a deep REM 'sleeper' it could possibly be right-handed reliever Andury Acevedo. The former Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop prospect has dropped his arm slot to a very low three-quarter delivery, almost side-arm, and he is still maintaining a 93-94 mph fastball that can get higher at times. Just as was the case a year ago when he pitched in Staten Island, the development of his breaking ball will go a long way towards defining his long-term potential as will his ability to cut down on the walks [24 in 27.2 innings], but there's some serious potential in his game with his combination of arm slot, movement, and power.

Not Just Yet

Right-hander David Palladino, a fifth round pick in 2013, repeated the Staten Island level this past season and did much better, posting a solid 3.72 ERA and allowing less hits than innings pitched. There has been some tangible progress to his game in one short year. However, standing 6-foot-8, mechanically he is still a work in progress as is maintaining his stuff. Both are still a little too inconsistent at the moment -- he'll range anywhere from 88-95 mph with his fastball -- but there's a high enough ceiling that he could find his way into legitimate 'sleeper' prospect status and break out at any time.

The same can be said for 6-foot-8 righty Matthew Borens, this year's 11th round pick out of Eastern Illinois University. Like Palladino there is a lot of ceiling to his game but the one difference with Borens is he can throw strikes more consistently at the current time so he arguably has a better chance. His stuff fluctuates too, however, especially his breaking ball which tends to get a little loopy. If he can tighten that up and improve on his rather average fastball velocity there could be something here.

Top Position Prospects

It certainly wasn't the plan entering the season but the presence of catcher Luis Torrens, who began the season in low-A Charleston but wound up going to Staten Island initially to rehab an injury, gave the SI Yanks a clear top prospect on the team.

He finished his Staten Island season hitting a respectable .270 with .732 OPS but his numbers were a little misleading, especially considering his strong start. He hit .351 for a 26-game stretch to begin the season but the 18-year old tailed off at the end, hitting just .185 in his final 22 games.

A plus defensive catcher in every sense of the term, one who boasts plus arm strength, an extremely quick release with accurate throws, and incredibly nimble feet, he has shown flashes of being a difference-making hitter too but just lacks the overall consistency right now due to his overall youth and inexperience. Still, the upside is significant and he just might be the best overall young catching prospect the Yankees have had in many, many years.

The Biggest 'Sleeper'

There really isn't another top position prospect from the Staten Island team this past season, although the squad does boast a nice blend of 'sleeper' prospects and 'what if' candidates, highlighted by the likes of Chris Breen, Thairo Estrada, and Ty McFarland.

On paper, outfielder/first baseman Chris Breen seems to be the best of the bunch, especially on the heels of leading the New York Penn League in OPS [.881]. The 20-year old had a fantastic season, hitting .281 with 16 doubles and eight home runs. He even improved his patience at the plate. Offensively he is just scratching the surface of his potential too. However, built like a true slugger, there are some legitimate long-term questions about his defensive abilities and where he could eventually fit on the diamond that could cloud his prospect status. He lacks the foot speed to be more than an average defender at best in left field so he'll just have to continue to hit his way up the minor league ladder.

Ty McFarland, this year's tenth round pick out of James Madison University, like Breen, is another above average offensive player with some legitimate long-term defensive question marks that cloud his overall potential. The collegiate third baseman hit a respectable .278 with 17 doubles and five home runs while transitioning to second base, and he shows excellent plate discipline [20 walks, just 37 strikeouts in 62 games]. The whole offensive package, including being a left-handed hitter, screams 'sleeper' potential at second base but he has a lot of work to do defensively to stick at the position. His bat plays a lot better at second. Should he have to move back to third or even to the outfield down the road the bat might be more ordinary at those spots.

Perhaps the best equipped 'sleeper' prospect from Staten Island is shortstop Thairo Estrada. He hit just .271 with no home runs in only 17 games while dealing with some injuries but, an above average defender at shortstop and a plus defender at second base, one who shows plus plate discipline and an ability to barrel the baseball for extra-base hits, and even has above average speed, he has an excellent chance to sneak up on folks in the coming years to become one of the better overall position prospects in the farm system.

Not Just Yet

Outside of those three 'sleeper' prospects, Staten Island also boasts of quintet of 'what if' candidates in catcher Isaias Tejeda, first baseman Connor Spencer, shortstop Vincent Conde, and outfielders Nathan Mikolas and Austin Aune, all of whom have shown some potential to be 'sleeper' candidates but all of which have some question marks for the time being that can't quite put them in that category yet.

For years Tejeda has been considered one of the better offensive backstops in the farm system but struggled with injuries and inconsistencies to put it all together. He started showing off his bat in 2014, however, hitting .271 with a league-leading 21 doubles and finishing seventh in OPS [.826], and even showing great plate discipline [17 walks, 27 strikeouts in 51 games], but he is merely average defensively and he is already 22 years old and has yet to make his mark in the long-season leagues. He still has some time to improve his stock as a prospect but the leash is getting shorter with each passing year.

Spencer, this year's 8th round pick out of the University of California-Irvine, can flat-out hit. He led the New York Penn League in batting with a .364 average this past season, a full 44 points higher than the next batter. However, the first baseman, who reportedly shows some intriguing power potential behind the scenes in batting practice, failed to hit a home run in his debut season. He is going to have to show a lot more in-game power playing a power-hitting position like first base to garner any serious consideration as legitimate prospect but the consistent bat alone gives him a chance.

Shortstop Vincent Conde, this year's 9th round pick out of Vanderbilt, has the requisite defensive game and overall plate discipline to give him a realistic long-term chance but the physical tools are pretty limited. He has below average power potential and below average speed, so while the intangibles are off the charts to the point where the game can play a level higher, the ceiling isn't very considerable. He'll just have to continue to improve his offensive output to keep getting his chances.

The same can be said for the duo of Nathan Mikolas and Austin Aune from a production standpoint. Both have considerable physical tools, especially with Mikolas with his plus pull-power potential and Aune with his overall power potential, but they hit .225 and .218 respectively in Staten Island this past season and at 20-years old both are getting to the point where neither is young for their league. They have the tools to not be completely written off yet but both need breakout seasons in the worst way to effectively move from the 'what if' group to the 'sleeper' category.


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