PHOENIX–Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin had a lot of success in 2007.
The Thunder had arguably the best pitching staff in the minors despite having a revolving door that led from Trenton through Triple-A to the big leagues, as well as new blood coming in from high Class A Tampa.
Trenton wasn’t exactly an offensive force in the Eastern League–the club finished ninth (out of 12 teams) in batting with a .254 average. The Thunder also scored just 598 runs–which ranked 11th overall in the league.
That didn’t seem to matter very much in the end, as quality pitching wound up knocking off one of the best offensive teams in the EL, with Trenton winning the league championship over Akron in four games.
“We hit a couple rough spots, but what we did all year was pitch well,” said Franklin, now managing the Peoria Javelinas in his first trip to the Arizona Fall League. “We played good defense fairly consistently all year. I think one thing that was a constant for us was we pitched well and played well behind our pitchers.
"We didn’t score a lot–pitching and defense was our staple.”
The Trenton staff included mainstays Alan Horne (12-4, 3.11), Jason Jones (8-11, 3.62) and Jeff Marquez (15-9, 3.65) but also saw righthanders Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy work their way through New Jersey, as well as lefty Chase Wright and righthander Tyler Clippard.
“It seemed like when we lost a pitcher, we replaced him with someone pretty good as well that was either coming up or in some cases, moving back down," Franklin said.
“We were able to maintain what we had all year because we replaced guys–pitchers and position players–and I think that speaks to the depth in the organization.”
Miranda On The Rise
The Yankees’ future at first base is somewhat clouded, but it appears Cuban defector Juan Miranda has emerged as the frontrunner from within the organization.
Miranda started the year with Tampa and finished with Trenton; overall, he batted .265/.350/.471 with 16 homers and 96 RBIs. The Yankees assigned him to the AFL, and he has drawn praise from not only Franklin but from scouts as well.
“This guy’s got huge power,” a scout from a National League club said. “He’s a legitimate threat regardless what his ceiling is age-wise.”
Age is a question with Miranda. His official birthdate provided by the club after he signed for $2 million in 2006 is April 23, 1983; but several Cuban sources have the former Pinar Del Rio player with a 1981 birthday (some have a March birthdate, some April), which would make him 26.
“I don’t really care if he’s 26 or 30,” said another scout from an American League club. “The bat has a higher ceiling than a lot of people thought, and he will hit for average too.”
Miranda has been pushing the envelope at first base since he signed, and it appears he’s worked his way past 2003 first-rounder Eric Duncan on the depth chart despite not playing for two years after leaving Cuba.
“I would think that after this season we’ll really be able to get a handle on where he stacks up,” Franklin said. “What I like about Juan and what I think the organization’s tried to do with him is to have him to be as aggressive as he can while being selective as he can be. He’s going to strike out some–that’s inevitable–but we don’t want him to give up anything where the power is concerned.
“He’s got the capability to take a ball that’s away from him and (drive) it out of the yard. He can hit a ball that’s up out of the yard and has the ability to hit balls down low in the strike zone and somehow make solid contact. He has enough power to hit balls out of any park no matter where it’s pitched.”
After Braves’ outfielder Jordan Schafer slammed into a wall in Peoria, it took three days until he was ready to get back after it again. Even if he was taken off the field on the back of a four-wheeler and directly to a local hospital for tests.
“The ball was hit in the left-center gap and I play deeper here than I normally do because of how much the ball carries out here,” Schafer said. “I thought I had room. I usually know how many steps it takes to reach the wall from where I’m positioned.
“But this time, as soon as I jumped for the ball–I caught it and then boom!–I crashed into the wall. When I first got up, my shoulder was really bothering me and I was kind of dizzy and nauseous and stuff. I tried to stand up and I had to sit back down.”
Schafer underwent a CAT scan and a full physical examination before being cleared to come back.
“I look at him and just kind of marvel at not only his ability–this guy can hit, hit with power, run and has an outstanding outfield arm–but his desire to be in the lineup every day," Franklin said. "It doesn’t matter what league it is. It doesn’t matter that he just got done playing for six months straight. Jordan Schafer wants to play.”
After ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the high Class A Carolina League during the regular season, Schafer was hitting .333/.370/.542 in 24 AFL at-bats for the Javelinas.
Out . . . For Now
Mariners catcher Jeff Clement left the AFL today to attend a wedding. The third overall pick in 2005 out of Southern California, Clement is slated to be back in action Monday.
“He’s quite a player,” Franklin said. “Good hitter, good receiver. I know he hasn’t been catching very long, but I like what I’ve seen so far.”