The Yankees last three minor league teams recently wrapped up their playoff runs. First up, the Staten Island Yankees.
Yankees at all levels have to learn certain baseball maxims. The one the SI Yankees learned this year was that it’s hard to win a short series when you waste a great start by your best pitcher.
Staten Island was defeated by the Hudson Valley Renegades 2-1 when the Tampa Bay Rays No. 3 prospect, LHP Brendan McKay, threw five innings of shutout ball back on September 12th.
But it didn’t have to be that way. Staten Island got a gem of a pitching performance in the first game. And it wasn’t a surprise as it came from their top pitcher, let alone player, RHP Jorge Guzman.
Guzman spent his day spinning seven innings of no earned run ball. But errors and the bullpen cost these Yankees the game, and probably the series.
There were several positives, though. For instance, how these baby bombers responded in-game two after getting walked off the game before. They scored two in the first inning as the unheralded 22-year-old RHP Jonathan Loaisiga put up five easy scoreless frames. SI would win Game 2 handily, 4-1.
Sadly, the baby Yanks learned two more lessons. One, that momentum lasts only as long as the next pitch. And that hot streaks can end at any time.
Over Before it Started
Game 3 seemed to favor the Yankees. They turned to the man who pitched them into the playoffs, and the McNamara crown, just six days earlier: Juan De Paula. JDP had been pitching extremely well since the end of June and entered the game with a 2.90 ERA.
Hudson Valley countered with their secret weapon, 1B/LHP Brendan McKay. The recipient of the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award, three consecutive years in college, McKay pitched just 20 innings in 2017 and finished the regular season with an ERA of 1.80.
The big boy Yankees might be forced to learn this kid’s name.
It was over early as De Paula gave up four runs in 3.1 innings, the first time he had given up more than two runs since July 11th. JDP’s streak of good starts ended the same time the Yankees’ season did, as the offense managed just one lone run, and SI lost 7-1.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Standouts on the Yankees side include RF Timmy Robinson, who not only hit .333 for the series, but also ripped consistently throughout the contest. Also of note, CF Andy Diaz provided both power and solid on-base percentage. Both earned feathers in their Yankees’ caps, but nothing to greatly improve their profiles.
But there are several pitchers who increased their intrigue level. First and foremost is RHP Jorge Guzman. He married his great regular season (2.30 ERA) to a stellar playoff appearance and significantly raised his stock and standing.
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RHP and 2017 fifth-round pick Glenn Otto continued to climb. He pitched across two levels of minor league ball this season and wound up with a 1.35 ERA. His 2.2 innings of scoreless relief in his must-win Game 2 relief appearance means he advances a level without throwing another pitch.
De Paula might not have done his best in his final outing, but he finished the regular season with a 2.90 ERA in 62 IP. And he pitched great in the first of his two big games, the playoff clincher. JDP might not have raised his image, but he did little to lower it.
I Just Hope I Spelled His Name Right
Finally, Jon Loaisiga proved an interesting last second discovery. The 22-year-old was originally signed by the Giants back in 2013, but quickly became injured. After his Tommy John surgery, Loaisiga wandered the baseball wasteland. He wound up playing both in Nicaragua and, later, with Novara in the Italian League.
The Yankees signed him last year and he debuted for Staten Island this past August. He went five innings and gave up one hit but neither a walk nor a run. And he routinely hit in the upper 90s throughout the start.
When the regular season was over, Loaisiga had thrown 32.2 innings and put up an ERA of 1.38 and WHIP of 0.61.
Starters this low in the system have to be pretty special to get excited about. And already injured ones have an extra strike against them. But Loaisiga has at least made himself an interesting Yankees pitching prospect to watch.
All four of these players will be moved up to start the Yankees’ 2018 season. If they’re lucky, some of them might advance as far as Trenton by year’s end. And that’s where we’ll go in our next minor league postseason wrap-up.