Double-A Transition Monitor: Johnny Giavotella, Tom Milone, Brandon Laird

Double-A Transition Monitor

Brandon Laird: This Yankees prospect was a 27th round pick in the 2007 draft out of Cypress Junior College. A third baseman, he hit .268/.329/.415 with 13 homers in the Florida State League in 2009, not great but his OPS was +9 percent in a tough league for hitting. He had a really good Arizona Fall League last year (.333/.406/.633) and also impressed scouts with his defense, which had previously been rated as fairly weak. Moved up to Double-A Trenton this year, he transitioned very well to Double-A pitching, hitting .291/.355/.523 with 23 homers, 38 walks, and 84 strikeouts in 409 at-bats. He moved up to Triple-A Scranton for August and had problems, hitting .246/.268/.344 with a sharp deterioration in his plate discipline (four walks, 27 strikeouts in 122 at-bats). Obviously he'll need more time to make the Triple-A transition, but at least the Double-A one went well. Despite looking pretty good with the glove in Arizona last fall, he was still too error-prone this year, and he could end up being a first baseman in the long run. Unfortunately his bat probably won't be good enough for first base, so it makes sense for the Yankees to stick with him at third for as long as possible. Grade C pre-season, he did enough this year to bump that to C+.

Tom Milone: One of the best pitchers in Double-A this year was Tom Milone of the Harrisburg Senators. A 10th round pick out of USC in 2008 by the Washington Nationals, he was excellent last year in the Carolina League (2.91 ERA, 106/36 K/BB in 151 innings, 144 hits, 12-5 record), but as a soft-tossing lefty who threw 85-87 MPH, many were skeptical that he could repeat this against advanced competition. Not only did he repeat his performance, he bettered it: 2.85 ERA, 155/23 K/BB in 158 innings, 161 hits, 12-5. Although he gave up a few more hits, a reduction in his walk rate and an increase in strikeouts resulted in a better overall ratio set. His FIP dropped from 3.55 in '09 to 2.85 in '10. Any time you see a pitcher improve his component  ratios while moving up a level, you have to be impressed. Milone still doesn't throw hard, but his changeup is excellent and he added additional bite to his breaking ball this year.  He was a Grade C pre-season. How high should I raise that given his performance?

Johnny Giavotella:  Kansas City Royals prospect Giavotella's 2009 season in the Carolina League was regarded as a bit disappointing by some, but he had a strong second half and was well-positioned for success this year. Succeed he did, hitting .322/.395/.460 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, with 61 walks, 67 strikeouts in 522 at-bats. He's always had an excellent feel for the strike zone and maintained that this year. He was especially hot in the second half, hitting .374/.438/.571. His defense drew mixed reviews in the lower minors, but he improved his error rate this year and if he keeps hitting his glove should be good enough. All told, it was a very successful transition. I gave him a C+ in the 2010 book; that will be at least a B- in the '11 edition.

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