Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's Time

The New York-Penn League has begun. You know what that means.

It took me a week to finally get my hands on some Staten Island Yankees action, but better late than never.

This year is especially going to be challenging because the Yankees' 2017 draftees have either A). yet to sign or B). yet to be assigned. What this means is that the lower levels like Pulaski, Staten Island and Charleston are going to be a bit of a rotating door. Some players will move out, as new ones come in. A week into the season and the opening day roster for the Staten Island Yankees is already out of date. This is where every autograph collector's keen sense of facial recognition will be tested and either come in handy or burn them miserably.

The key name on the roster is hands down Wilkerman Garcia. One of the crown jewels in the insane International Amateur Free Agent haul the Yankees had in 2014. Wilkerman Garcia is seen as the most promising of that group due to his serious potential as a shortstop going forward. Offensively he's still got a lot of things to work on but he's a 19 year old who has still yet to fill out so there's still time for him to develop his hit tool and power tool. Defensively he is very solid at shortstop but rumors have circulated that he might be better suited at other infield positions. I'm sure the Yankees will keep Garcia at shortstop for now and then later test him out at various positions anyway because that's what they do now (see Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and Jorge Mateo for example).
Garcia was Charleston bound in 2016 but a shoulder injury limited him to action in Pulaski where he was, underwhelming to say the least. But there is great hope that he can get the bat going this year and really show flashes of his true potential, then future show it more consistently in Charleston later.
Sidenote, Garcia is already a "one autograph per person" guy so I can already hear a lot of autograph hounds in Tampa and Trenton complaining. Ha! Take that you hounds!

Another key name on the roster (at least for me) was Nelson Gomez here. I've been really excited about Gomez for years due to his immense power potential. When the guy connects, he hits dingers. Of course there's a lot to work on with the rest of his offensive game, and his defense is an even bigger question mark, but the potential is there and for me he's an interesting and very good under the radar candidate to keep an eye on.

For whatever it's worth Nelson did his part in the game. Going 1-3 with a walk and two strike outs (scoring a run too) as the team's cleanup hitter. I expect a lot more growth from Gomez going forward.

And I also got three Gomez cards signed. I had a fat stack of his cards and decided on the Under Armour insert, the Asia exclusive black ref, and the purple ref I traded way too much to acquire back in 2015. The rest were given to him as a gift.

Alright, now onto a really familiar face. Jeff Degano, the Yankees' second rounder from 2015, is back after a very down 2016 season in Pulaski. Degano couldn't throw strikes anymore last year and as a result he's been relegated to reliever status. Whether or not Degano simply suffered a case of the yips remains to be seen, but I hope he pulls it all together and makes good on his promise as a serviceable big league pitcher in some non-specific cacapity.

Next up is Eduardo Rivera. Rivera has been in the Yankees org since 2010 when he signed as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic. Rivera is a righty who can throw really really hard. That velocity has managed to keep him employed for over half of a decade but command issues have been what kept Rivera from making significant progress. Rivera has shown glimpses of success however, most notably last year when he performed rather well in Staten Island and in Charleston. In Tampa he struggled a fair bit and this year he's been demoted back to Staten Island. Given his high-90's fastball, the Yankees won't give up on him just yet, but time might be ticking for the 24 year old fireballer.

Danienger Perez, the first member of the aforementioned 2014 IFA haul that actually made it above rookie ball. Perez has largely spent the last three years going back and forth between rookie ball and Staten Island. Perez's best tool is likely his speed, followed by his glove. A lot of the reports I've read about him say that Perez is a slap hitter who hasn't hit a lot. Looking at the numbers alone, it sounds about right. That said, hopefully he can carve out a few more years as an org guy.

Here is backstop Manny Argomaniz. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015 out of Fresno State, the backstop primarily played infield in college but the Yankees converted him into a catcher after he turned pro. Probably due to how the Yankees' supply of catchers has gotten thinner in recent times (the days of a promising catcher at every level are long gone). It could be due to there being three catchers on the roster, but Argomaniz hasn't had a lot of playing time yet to show what he can do just yet. On the other hand, he is getting a lot more practice as a backstop with bullpen warmup sessions.

Here is Braden Bristo. A 23rd rounder from last year who is a righty reliever. Interestingly enough he was rumored to come to Staten Island last year but for whatever reason was assigned to Pulaski instead. Bristo has a low 90's fastball that can reach 97 at times, and is currently in the process of harnessing it to turn into an effective relief option.

Last but not least is DTW, aka Dom Thompson-Williams. DTW was in Staten Island last year but the glut of outfield depth in the org has pretty much caused him to repeat the level. DTW's calling card is his insanely good defense, but hitting will be his biggest challenge. He hit okay last year but this year he'll be looking to show that he's improved offensively. Which won't be easy as all of the outfielders in SIY seem to have something to prove to Yankees management as more roster cuts have to be considered given the massive influx of talent in the last 365 days.

And those were my autographs. Not bad for my first day eh? The focus was primarily on Nelson Gomez and Wilkerman Garcia so everything else was gravy to me after that. I do still have some more autographs I'd love to get, but I still have the rest of the summer (hopefully).

Alright, so onto the game itself.

I didn't stick around for the whole game (I had work the next day), but what I did see was a lot of fun. The Yankees starter was Jorge Guzman, one of the prospects the Yankees got from Houston in the Brian McCann trade. He was extremely effective as he went six innings, allowing two hits, zero runs and striking out seven hitters. He doesn't have a baseball card but I'd certainly like to get his autograph while he's still here. He's probably the second most promising pitcher on the squad this year (behind Drew Finley). After Guzman, Branden Pinder (yes, the former big leaguer), Justin Kamplain and Eduardo Rivera came in and they all shutout the Aberdeen IronBirds.

Offensively the team made some key hits when it counted and also made good on some of the other team's pitching woes. The first inning alone set the tone for the game as IronBirds starter Nick Vespi allowed two runs, one via a bases loaded walk. The Yankees tacked on five more runs as the game went on, one of which was another bases loaded walk. Except for Brian Reyes (who didn't even have a plate appearance as he was a late defensive replacement), pretty much all of the hitters reached base at least once.

I forgot the "the" ACK!!!!

One scary moment came when Oswaldo Cabrera (a IFA signee from 2015) was HBP in the first. He got up and walked to first and then stayed on the basepaths until he reached third base where he was replaced by Chris Hess. Whether or not he's seriously hurt and will miss time remains to be seen. Hopefully it's nothing serious and he'll be back on the field quickly.

In all the Yankees won it 7-0. They improve to 6-1 on the season and are in a really good spot.

One of the more personal fun moments I had at the game was meeting Alex Bisacca (48) again. He still remembered me as a the crazy fan from 2015 and I got introduced to Chase Hodson in the process. We talked for a bit and we all hoped the season would be just as fun and wild as it was in 2015. And that what likely killed the 2015 season were rained out games smack dab in the postseason, and the lack of any real reinforcements from the lower levels (Pulaski was in their league's postseason too so it's not like they could send anybody of note anyway).

Hopefully they both survive the revolving door that will be the SIY roster this year. Both were/are really cool dudes to talk to and root for.

So that was my first Staten Island Yankees game of the season. Great start IMHO. Hopefully the fun continues in the upcoming months.

That Hudson River backdrop man

As always thanks for stopping by and take care :).

2017 IP Auto Count: 10


  1. Yes, very nice return on your first day indeed!
    I think it's really cool you gave Nelson Gomez the rest of the stack.
    Side note: You often don't see a guy who wears #59 with the skills to be able to bunt like that!

    1. Thanks PTT :). I agree, Wilk had a lot of speed, I was impressed (and regretted not bringing a velocity gun). And thanks, at this point giving players cards is just my thing :).

  2. I think I'm heading out to my second Black Bears game tomorrow. I'm hoping for better weather.

    Congrats on some great autos to get the season going. I admire your dedication.

    1. Hope you have/had a fun time Matt. Thanks, maybe you'll have your first IP auto one of these days?

  3. Nice! I managed to get a couple TTMs out to a few of those guys before heading out of town on vacation.

  4. Love going to minor league games. In fact... for the money, I prefer them over MLB games.

    1. Yup. At Yankee Stadium $14 won't get me much except a cup of really flat Mountain Dew. Let alone offer me a chance to get 10 autographs.