Yankees minor league playoff final: Trenton Thunder

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) /

The Yankees Double-A, the Trenton Thunder, team made it all the way to the finals. But their lack of consistency led to their excellent season ending in a sweep.

The Yankees Double-A Trenton Thunder ended the season rostering many of the organizations top prospects. But all the talent in the game can’t help a team win if it doesn’t bring that talent on a consistent basis.

And that’s what dampened the Thunder in their three-game sweep by Altoona.

Seemingly no part of Trenton’s Postseason had any consistency, starting with the offense. For instance, in the previous series, the team won two games with dominant offensive displays.

Trenton scored nine runs each, in games two and four, and 21 runs in the four-game series.

But, in the finals, they managed only five runs in the entire three-game sweep. It’s hard to win like that. The only real bright spots offensively continued to be SS Thairo Estrada and RF Jeff Hendrix.

However, when even their lively bats lost their vigor in the final game, it was the Yankees’ death knell. After losing the first game 2-1, Trenton lost the last two games of the series by the same anemic score: 4-2.

Pitching In

Pitching was also susceptible to instability. In the first game of the previous series, RHP Dillon Tate gave up four runs in three innings pitched.

Tate profited from the Yankees’ consistent inconsistency, however, in his second chance to start a series — game one of the finals, saw him give up just one earned in six strong.

RHP Jose Mesa continued to prove unhittable over his two innings in that same game. But the defense let them, and the team, down; thus the 2-1 loss.

After that, the Thunder were a victim of their collective karma: Tate had a better start; LHP Justus Sheffield had a worse one.

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The last time out, he and RHP Taylor Widener combined on a complete game no-hitter. But this time they gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings, more than the offense could overcome.

RHP Will Carter needed no help in-game three. By the time he walked off after 4.2 innings, he had surrendered more runs than his team could score. This makes perfect sense as his previous start was so stellar: 6.1 IP of one-run ball.

And Carter was not just the team’s worst enemy, he was his own. He gave up too many walks and had one bad error. But the fatal flaw was that he decided to do it all at the same time.

Will entered the fifth having given up no runs and left, before it ended, having given up four. Carter simply melted down.

Out Standing in their Fields

Standouts from the finals are familiar names, with one big addition. Sheff and Taylor each had one great appearance and one lousy one; that’s a push. Thairo ended the finals batting .273 and with two of the team’s five RBI’s. He continues to impress.

Hendrix continued his abnormally good second half and hit .333 while scoring one and driving in one. That might prove the highlight of his baseball career. If so, I’m glad he at least got one, as that’s more than most ever get.

Tate, pitching one of his best games in the finals, though, definitely redeemed and improved his profile. Even Keith Law noticed that:

"On Tuesday night, he started Game 1 of the Eastern League championship series for Trenton, and was sitting at 94-97 mph from the windup with more fastball life than he’d shown last year in the Arizona Fall League as a reliever, along with a much-improved changeup that I think has surpassed his slider to become his best off-speed pitch."

Starting to Flower

And of course, there was CF Estevan Florial whose press coverage is starting to match his talent. His impact on the Thunder’s Postseason was minimal, which followed the plan:

"Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell wanted someone on the roster that can run, and with the loss of rehab players Clint Frazier (he is starting tonight for the Yankees) and Garrett Cooper (Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for its Governors Cup Finals series with Durham), Florial was chosen.“It may depend on if someone gets hurt, possibly, or if I need a runner,” Mitchell said. “He can really run, from what I have heard. I am not sure if he is ready to steal bags here, but if we can take advantage of some slow pitcher, he would be the guy that will come in to run.”"

Indeed, Florial barely played in the series, although he both hit and scored. What’s important is not how he did in the series; it’s that he appeared in the series at all. And it tells us everything we need to about what the Yankees see in this kid.

Florial spent 2016 at Pulaski but was promoted to Low-A Charleston just for their playoffs. This season was deja vu. Starting 2017 with the RiverDogs, following his playoff appearance, Florial was promoted to High-A Tampa late this season.

But, in a repeat of last year, he was promoted to the next level up, Double-A Trenton this time, just as their own playoffs started.

Double Vision

That’s quite the vision for Florial. That the Yankees desire their minor league players to experience as many Postseason’s as possible is well known. They have taken it to a new level with Estevan, however.

Two seasons in a row now they have taken one of their youngest players and put him against the toughest competition he has ever faced at the most intense time of the year. That means they are more interested in his development than the success of teams like Trenton.

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And it means they think he is mentally tough enough to handle that kind of pressure. Clearly, they want to see how he does in September because they want to see how he might do in October.

History might repeat itself and Florial might stay where he finished, starting 2018 in Double-A. But many of his teammates will be leaving to start the season at Scranton. They, along with the young Yankees already excelling at Triple-A, will form the next wave of highly ranked talent.

Movin’ On Up

It is likely that both No. 5 prospect Sheffield and No. 14 ranked Tate, along with RHP Domingo Acevedo (No. 7), have pitched their last games in Jersey. Acevedo was recently injured but already earned a promotion.

Joining them will likely be UI Thairo Estrada (18), who looks like a better version of Tyler Wade… one that can hit. No. 9 prospect, 2B Nick Solak might never develop defensively but his bat will make him an exciting offensive option.

Nick might end up in LF or he may become a trade piece. But the return should be something that can help the boys in the Bronx.

When these players join those already at Triple-A, the Yankees will have six of their top nine prospects at Scranton. And more importantly, a good number of players who look like real contributors for the Yankees.

Tate, for instance, might prove the best pitcher in the group. And Estrada is likely to take Wade’s utility role starting sometime next year. That’s not reloading, it’s upgrading.

Next: Yankees 2017 Youth Movement in Review: Casa de Suenos

We’ll have to wait and see if these promoted players can do as well as the current Pennsylvanians. But we don’t have to wait to see how the talented 2017 RailRiders team made out in its playoff appearance. And that’s where we go next.