Gotham Baseball Minors: Quiroli: Trenton Thunder Notebook

Thunder Notebook- May

Trenton, NJ- The Thunder closed out May at home with two rehab appearances and a walk-off win, against the team with the best Eastern League record.

A fine way to end June and improve their record to 30-24.

The ability to make contact and get guys on base hasn’t been their problem. And that was on display on May 30th, vs. the Erie Seawolves. Also on display was their struggle to get those guys home. The Thunder left eleven on base.

But in watching them at the plate, they look like players working it out, each game, each at-bat. Their inexperience at the Double-A level may play a part, but their progress is also clear.

“I’ve had a lot of these guys through every year of their careers,” said Thunder hitting coach Justin Turner. They all have good ability, with solid routines, and they’ve gotten more mature each of the past few years. They’re all getting in good counts.”

Slade Heathcott, with four-hits in the May 30th victory, has been putting together a particularly impressive string of games. In 21 games in May, he knocked in eighteen runs, and had a nine-game hitting streak.

“He’s got some impressive tools,” said rehabbing Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. “He played a ball at close to four-hundred feet. He impressed me.”

“All three outfielders are great,” said third baseman Kevin Youkilis, also rehabbing the same says as Teixeira. “JR Murphy really impressed me behind the plate. And with how well he hits and defensively, he’s going to make it pretty far. I saw him in spring training a little bit and liked him a lot.”

Youkilis also mentioned that they saw a lot of the guys on the roster in spring training, and that they talked more there, about the game.

Any advice those veterans can give is surely appreciated. The Thunder players of 2013 are already showing that they’re ready to learn and willing to work.

Tyler Austin Works Through Struggles With Extra Effort

Pressure is a given as a prospect makes it through the ranks. They have to play to it, not against it and learn to keep their head out of the noise of expectation.

Rightfielder Tyler Austin is like any other young player, in that he’s trying to get the hang of that.

“I’m definitely starting to relax. I’m concentrating on getting contact. I’ve been doing more work in the cages, working on things after games.”

In his first full season in Double-A, after level-jumping four times in 2012 and finishing the season as organizational Player of the Year, he’s had to adjust to a lot. The key objective has been simple, just not necessarily simple to put in action consistently. At least not yet.

“It’s just about keeping my same approach at every level.”

Thunder players have had their share of offensive growing pains. Their .247 batting average is second to last in the Eastern League. They are second in strikeouts, K’ing 247 times so far this season.

Austin is part of a group that are highly regarded in the system, and struggling hard through a big test.

“We’re not getting that big hit right now. But that’s what you go through. Eventually, you turn it around.”

Hitting Coach Justin Turner Takes Key Players To Next Step:

Here is what Thunder hitting coach Justin Turner had to say in May about his players:

“I’ve had a lot of these guys through every year of their careers. They all have good ability, with solid routines, and they’ve gotten more mature each of the past few years. They’re all getting in good counts.”

On Their Maturity: Parenting. They were brought up very respectful. They’re very aware, and wear the New York pinstripes with pride. They don’t take their roles lightly. That was instilled in them, before I was working them.

On First Baseman Kyle Roller: Roller is fun, a pleasure to work with. He’s a coach’s dream. He’s gotten to the point where he can coach himself. That eliminates me, which is what you want. He’s got a good feel for what he needs to do, so he doesn’t rely on me. [Roller actually had a far more successful April, than May. In May, his average dropped from .337 to .198. But in the final five games of the month, he got four hits, an RBI, and three walks.]

On Thunder’s High Strikeout Rate: We’re drawing walks, swinging at good pitches. But this is a young club. It comes down to their approach. We make some routine tweaks, but the routine is designed to get you back to where you need to be.

Thunder Manager Tony Franklin Addresses Releasing Player, Former Player’s Transition:

On Releasing Pitcher Shaeffer Hall: That was tough, because I liked him. He’s got a passion for this game. And yet he understood. He indicated to me that he wants to keep playing, and will try and get an opportunity somewhere else. Or he’d like to get in baseball by being in the office, being behind a desk. He has a degree. [Hall played in the Yankees organization starting in 2009, after the team drafted him in the 25th round of that year’s MLB June Draft.]

Franklin also commented on former Thunder pitcher Dellin Betances being moved to the bullpen. When asked, Franklin agreed that Betances struggled to get through the order multiple times as a starting pitcher. Earlier, Thunder pitching coach Tommy Phelps said Betances would start out a game strong, but “somewhere along the way, it would fall apart.”

On Whether The Yankees Could Develop Him Into A Closer: He could come in for one or two pitches. You just don’t give up on a guy like that, who can throw that hard. Stuff wise, maybe not the best because of the control issues. But overall, you just don’t find players like that everyday, that can throw that hard in high school. He pitched a game for us in Richmond, and he should’ve been pitching for the Yankees that day.”

Thunder By The Numbers:

In 30 games, the Thunder’s team ERA was 3.06. In twelve games in May, the staff carried a 1.83 ERA. Nik Turley leads the staff with 52 strikeouts.

Tyler Austin leads the team in RBI with 32. In 2012 he was named the Yankees Minor League Player of the Year. The oufielder’s average dipped to .253. In April he got seventeen hits, and just thirteen in May in 107 at bats. However, Austin leads all Thunder hitters in RBI, with 32.

Kyle Roller’s six home runs lead the team.
The Thunder bullpen is tied for first with New Hampshire with seventeen saves.

Quote of the Month: ‘It’s fun, but then you’re kind of like, you’re getting old…. “ Youkilis
(Teixeira followed that up by saying, ‘We saw some sixteen year olds in spring training.’)