After an uninspiring beginning of the season for pitching prospects, a number of hurlers kicked it into gear and gave us the most competitive week of MLPW so far.

Minor League Players of the Week (v3):

Pitcher:
Adam Warren, 23, RHP, AAA
8 IP, 3 K, 1 BB, 5 H, 0 ER
Notable: 10 GBO, 6 FBO

NoMaas Ranking – 13

Easily the best pitching performance of the Yankee system so far, Adam Warren was in complete control this past Wednesday. The former Tar Heel had his stellar control on display (2.2 BB/9 in 2010), and kept any contact against him weak (1.67 GB / FB). You always hope for more strikeouts, but if he keeps putting up lines like this, you really can’t complain. Adam’s combination of command and grounders will definitely come in handy for him moving forward.

Warren has been one of the fastest moving Yankee pitchers in recent memory. In what amounts to a mere two seasons, he’s moved from the New York Penn League to the International League (four levels) and put himself on the cusp of a call-up to the majors. His experience as a four-year college pitcher absolutely prepared him for the rigors of pitching regularly, but I seriously doubt that even the Yankees expected Adam to pitch this well, this quickly, with virtually no hiccups along the way and some of the most dominant performances of any prospect in baseball (8/18/2010 – 7.0 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, 15 K).

It’s a testament to both Warren’s ability and work ethic, as well as the Yankee scouting and player development departments. They tailored a plan to Warren (not just “Collegiate Pitcher #4”) that, while seemingly aggressive, has absolutely worked and allowed him to flourish. Now he’s one of the best pitchers in a top-5 farm-system. Not bad for a third round pick a lot of draft minds saw as merely an organizational player.

Hitter:
Austin Romine, 22, RHB C, AA
.381 / .435 / .857 in 23 PAs
Notable: 3 HRs

NoMaas Ranking – 3

Another week, another top hitting prospect posting ridiculous numbers. First it was Slade Heathcott, then it was JR Murphy, and now it’s the Yankees former second round pick, Austin Romine. It’s good to see Romine get off to a hot start for the second year in a row, but it’s going to be crucial for him to keep his production up as the year goes on. Last year, his first full year as the sole catcher for his team, really seemed to take a toll on Austin, as he waned in the middle of the season (.626 OPS from June through August). Hopefully he’s better prepared for the rigors of catching everyday and we can see more weeks like this in July and August. Hitting, however, is only one part of the equation for backstops at any level.

One of the Yankees top prospects coming into 2010, Romine had a rather underwhelming year at Trenton, posting his second-worst season as a defender (22.7 CS%). For a player whose work behind the plate was always supposed to one of his best tools (his arm ranked as a 60 according to BA in both 2010 and this year), it certainly hasn’t shown lately (22.6 CS% in 2010/2011). Romine is probably not completely to blame in this matter, as minor league pitchers don’t typically do a great job holding runners on, but given that Austin has displayed spectacular defense before (30.4 CS% in 2009), at lower levels no less, we can hold him to a higher standard.

Romine has really been set up for success at Trenton this year. It’s a level he’s familiar with, having spent all of 2010 there and he’s (hopefully) prepared for the toll consistent catching will take on his body. Austin really needs to show the Yankees something in 2011, as anything resembling 2010 will likely be considered a disappointment for a player who, only a year ago, was viewed as the Yankees long-term solution at catcher.

Honorable Mentions:

Kelvin De Leon, 19, RHB RF, A
.263 / .333 / .632 in 21 PAs

Still hasn’t found a pitch he doesn’t like (37.5 K% in 2011). Needs to get some plate discipline, ASAP.

Ramon Flores, 20, LHB LF/1B, A
.278 / .409 / .500 in 22 PAs

The polar opposite of De Leon, Flores has more walks than strikeouts this season (14 BB – 12 K).

David Phelps, 24, RHP, AAA
6.1 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 3 H, 2 ER

Great start for Phelps, unfortunately overshadowed by Warren’s effort.

Graham Stoneburner, 23, RHP, AA
5 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 0 ER

Stoneburner is so consistently good this is a “meh” start for him (5 GB, 1 FB).

The “Just Because He’s Awesome” Line of the Week:
Manny Banuelos, 20, LHP, AA
4 IP, 4 K, 2 BB, 2 H, 0 ER

Imagine what he’ll be like when he actually has his arm strength back.

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