2004 Arizona Fall League: Yankees Prospects

The Yankees will be sending seven players to play on the Grand Canyon Rafters in the 2004 Arizona Fall League this year. With players like Mitch Jones, Ben Julianel, Sam Marsonek, and Kevin Thompson, the Yankees players will represent the majority of "veterans" on the Grand Canyon team as the Arizona Fall League will get set to kick off on October 5th. Javier Ortiz, Sean Henn, and Bronson Sardinha round out the Yankees' members heading to Arizona this fall. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

The New York Yankees are doing what they can to give the Grand Canyon Rafters a veteran presence for the 2004 Arizona Fall League season as the Yankees' farmhands will be representing half of the team's players born in the 1970's. Sam Marsonek, Ben Julianel, Kevin Thompson, and Mitch Jones are four of the eight players born in the decade of the '70s. The 2004 Arizona Fall League schedule calls for games to be played between October 5th and November 18, 2004 with the Championship Game to be held on November 20th at Scottsdale Stadium. Here are all of the Yankees' farmhands heading to the AFL in 2004.

OF, Mitch Jones - After clubbing 39 home runs and driving in 97 runs, Jones was rewarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League to represent the Yankees this years. Mitch hit just .246 but also managed to 25 doubles and sported a .548 slugging percentage for the Trenton Thunder in the AA-Eastern League this past season. Jones' 39 home runs lead the Eastern League, collecting two more dingers than the highly celebrated Ryan Howard of the Phillies' organization. The one thing he'll most assuredly being working on in the AFL is his pitch selection and patience at the plate as he struck out an eye-popping 152 times in 496 at-bats. His 152 strikeouts were tied for the Eastern League lead with Justin Singleton of New Hampshire. Jones has the distinction of being the "veteran" on the Rafters squad. Jones, born on October 15, 1977 is almost nine months older than the second oldest player on the Rafters' team....Yankees' farmhand Sam Marsonek.

P, Sean Henn - Joining Jones on the Rafters' team is fellow Thunder teammate Sean Henn. A year after surgery, Henn started 27 games for Trenton in 2004 and was easily their most reliable starting pitcher. Henn went 6-8 with a 4.41 ERA and is one of the Yankees' pitching prospects in the higher minor league levels that has some upside. He'll have to work on his control in the Arizona Fall League. Henn's 63 walks were fourth most in the Eastern League this season and he'll have to cut down on his 1.44 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) if he's to resume his status as a top pitching prospect for the Yankees. Eastern League batters hit .280 off of him this season as he surrendered 173 hits in 163.1 innings in 2004.

P, Ben Julianel - Julianel was used primarily as the Tampa Yankees' closer to begin the 2004 season before the rise of uber-closing prospect Edwardo Sierra forced him into the setup role later in the year. Julianel had a tremendous year in the Florida State League, going 5-5 with 10 saves and a 2.58 ERA in 43 relief appearances. His 2.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio gives every indication that the future is bright for this hard-throwing righty. He struck out 70 batters in just 59 1/3 innings for Tampa this season and opposing Florida State League batters hit just .225 off of him this past season.

P, Sam Marsonek - Marsonek, who shared closing duties with Brett Prinz for the AAA-Columbus Clippers this season, appeared in 35 games for the Clippers in 2004. He sported 1-5 record with 17 saves and a 3.15 ERA. In 40 innings, Marsonek allowed 36 hits and 12 walks, while striking out 28 batters. Marsonek's 17 saves ranked him sixth in the International League in that category.

P, Javier Ortiz - Ortiz, who pitched in both AA-Trenton and AAA-Columbus, is also heading to the Arizona Fall League and he's hoping he finds more success there than he had in his nine starts for AAA-Columbus this season. Ortiz went just 1-5 with a 7.50 ERA in limited action for the Clippers and opposing International League batters hit a whopping .367 against him as he served up 10 home runs in just 42 innings of work. Ortiz's combined numbers in 2004: 7-12, 5.07 ERA. In 147 1/3 combined innings, Ortiz surrendered 176 hits and walked 52 batters while striking out 110. Like Henn, Ortiz needs to find his groove again to regain that top prospect status.

OF, Kevin Thompson - Thompson is a physically gifted outfielder blessed with a good combination of power and speed. A quick look at him and one would think he has 20-20 potential written all over him. And he's a true student of the game, always looking to improve as he continually is working with the coaches. Battling injuries earlier in the year, Thompson hit .281 for the AA-Trenton Thunder in 2004 with 9 home runs and a team leading 29 stolen bases. Time is running out for Thompson to showcase his skills as a "prospect". Thompson is the second oldest positional prospect on the Grand Canyon team...that's right! The only older positional prospect on the team is Thunder teammate Mitch Jones.

3B, Bronson Sardinha - Sardinha did pretty well offensively in his first taste of AA baseball for the Trenton Thunder this past year after being called up from Tampa around the All-Star break. He hit .267 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 266 at-bats for the Thunder after hitting .315-2-33 in 248 at-bats for Tampa. Sardinha, playing third base in 2004 after rising through the ranks as an outfielder, is most likely heading to the Arizona Fall League to work on his defense. Sardinha committed an ungodly amount of 43 errors this year in his two stops manning the hot corner for Trenton and Tampa. Just 21 years old, Sardinha is the third youngest player on the Rafters squad. Only Braves' catcher Brian McCann and Braves' outfielder Jeff Francoeur are younger.

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