Where: The Ballpark at St George, Staten Island, New York
When: 3rd September 2015
What: Tri-City Valleycats vs Staten Island Yankees
The current season’s issue of “Playball!”, the Staten Island Yankees’ matchday programme shows photos of several former SI Yanks who have made it to the minors. There have been more than the 8 listed there (I recall one, Jason Anderson – there may have been others) but the truth is not many. Contrary to its probable intention, it got me reflecting during the game on how hard it is for these young men to make it to the top in their chosen sporting career. Or truth be told, anywhere near the top.
I tallied the current roster at 34 players plus a couple of guys with long-term injury problems. They range in age from the 26 year-old (and injured) right-handed pitcher, Chad Taylor to the 19 year-old shortstop, Thairo Estrada who is playing second base tonight because the guy playing shortstop is reckoned to have a better chance of making the Bigs than Estrada does.
Of these 34 or so players, none are on the Yankees 40-man protected roster (not unusual for players at this level) and only three are listed as being amongst the 30 best prospects in the Yankees’ farm system. Whilst it is not unknown for players outside the list of prospects to make the majors (at least temporarily), being on that llist is no guarantee of getting to the majors either. This suggests that 30 or more of these players on this low level roster will not make it and will find themselves behind their contemporaries in carving out a career in another field, having spent several years trying to make it with a bat and a ball and a glove.
Now, that’s a hard future to contemplate.
Watching the team in their recent series against the Tri-City Valleycats, it is easy to see why few make it. Mostly what we see here is competence but little that is outstanding – and this is a short season Single-A club. There are more levels between here and the Bronx – each level only gained by proving your worth and not just through time served.
All this is bearing in mind that the Staten Island Yankees have had a successful season. Their .547 record will see them into the New York Penn League post season. Their games are fun to come to and you will not go away easily forgetting the antics of the mascots, Scooter the Holy Cow and Red and the dancing “Pinstripe Patrol”. But this series is a particular test because the ‘Cats are the team they are most likely to play in the first round of those playoffs and are equally adept at this level.
In this game on a sultry evening in September, it is the pitchers who dominate. This is particularly good news for James Kaprelian, who is number 5 on that list of prospects I mentioned. Tonight, he delivers up three and two-third innings of scoreless pitching, with well-defined, close control. His ERA has fallen to 2.00 on the season and he will be tagged for the opening game of the playoff series. It is less good news for Andre Del Bosque who is given the ball in the 8th and manages to carry the game into extra innings before everything went sour with him giving up five runs. His ERA for the season is now over 5 and there must be a question mark over his future in the Yankees system at the tender age of 24.
The only other pitcher on that 30 man list is right-hander Domingo Acevedo who doesn’t feature. One interesting phenomenon is that several SI Yankees are made available around the stadium to sign autographs for the younger fans prior to the game – this is good news for the kids who get to meet the players, bad news for the players who therefore know that they’re not getting a game and every opportunity to prove themselves must be made to count.
Quite frankly, the offensive and fielding side of the team’s performance has very few highlights. There were hits for Zack Zehner and the aforementioned Estrada but the player who contributes most, and is clearly head-and-shoulders above the rest is the third player of the three Staten Island players on that 30 prospect list. He is the shortstop Kyle Holder, who pulls off a couple of dramatic fielding plays as well as being responsible for two hits (one of which is a double). He is ranked 13 on that list of the Yankees most likely to make it to the top – a ranking that may prove unlucky for some of the other guys on display tonight. The Yankees have more confidence in Holder’s ability in the field than they do with him at bat and his .219 average on the season shows he has a long way to go but perhaps tonight’s offensive show suggests that some lessons are beginning to stick.
And for the other guys…? Well, the end of the season is close at hand and 2016 will see some released, a few promoted and a couple might be back here for one more try. Each way, this is a very tenuous road they walk.