The 2012 MLB season is getting closer, and teams are currently seeing which prospects have the stuff to make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and which prospects still need to improve on a particular area before being promoted.
The New York Yankees are no exception. Although most of their 25-man roster is likely set, there are still a number of prospects who have the potential to find their way onto the major league roster at some this year.
Here are five prospects who have the potential and are ready (or are close to ready) to play in the big leagues.
We actually got to see Austin Romine in major league action last September. They could have actually gone with Jesus Montero, but surprisingly the organization didn't, and now he's part of the Seattle Mariners.
All that's stopping Romine from getting to the majors is Russell Martin, who's signed until the end of this year, and Francisco Cervelli, who hasn't been great in the three years he's been in the big leagues.
Romine is less like Montero and more like Martin, relying on defense rather his bat. But with an already stacked lineup, it's not exactly necessary to add even more power to the team.
And in reality, he is actually a decent hitter. Last year, in Double-A Trenton, he hit .286, so he is certainly capable of making contact.
Somewhere down the line, he'll get his shot this season. If he can perform well in Double-A or Triple-A, or even in spring training, he might get a shot sooner than you think.
Banuelos has what it takes to be a great pitcher... in the future anyway.
He's only 20 (he turns 21 later this month), yet he has so much talent. In last year's spring training, Mariano Rivera called him "the greatest pitching prospect I've ever seen."
He definitely knows how to strike out opposing hitters. Over the course of his minor league career, he's struck out 9.2 batters per nine innings.
Only problem is that he walked a lot of batters; 52 in 95 1/3 innings in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre last year.
I see him starting in Triple-A in 2012, where he'll work on lowering walks. As much as I'd like to see him start, the team has almost their entire 25-man roster set. It would take nothing short of some astounding pitching to get him a spot on the roster.
However, a spot in the bullpen can certainly happen in the near future for Banuelos with an occasional start here and there throughout the season, especially if there's an injury or if Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia can't get the job done.
The future is very bright for this kid, and he definitely has the potential to be a major league pitcher in the years to come.
Like Banuelos, Dellin Betances is another guy who will be looking at a spot on the roster during spring training.
He's an imposing figure at 6'8", 260 pounds.
This kid lives and breathes New York Yankees. He was born in Washington Heights, located in Manhattan. He was part of the Bleacher Creatures when David Wells pitched a perfect game in 1998.
He had surgery back in 2009, but has recovered since then.
He actually made it to the big league roster last year as a September call-up, though he didn't do so hot. In two games (one start), he gave up a home run and six walks.
Not exactly the best way to start your career in the majors, but I think that was just a minor setback.
Like Banuelos, I see him starting off the 2012 season in Triple-A, unless injuries occur. However, I think he would be second in line for the promotion, even though he logged in more innings as a starting pitcher than Banuelos.
Adam Warren isn't as talked about as much as Banuelos or Betances, but he's shown the potential to be a quality pitcher.
However, unlike the previous two mentioned, Warren is more of a control and command guy, rather than relying on power. That doesn't mean he can't strike out opposing batters.
In fact, last year, pitching in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes/Barre, he struck out 111 batters in 152 1/3 innings and recorded a 3.60 ERA.
While he might never be at the top of the rotation, he's a workhorse and an innings eater, and could be a back-of-the-rotation player in the near future.
He'll make some appearances in 2012, though I don't think he'll get a start; those will go to Banuelos and Betances.
2013, on the other hand, could be a different story.
About three weeks ago, I mentioned in one of my articles that a bold move that the Yankees organization should do would be to trade Nick Swisher and let an outfield prospect by the name of Zoilo Almonte get an opportunity to play.
Well, while they haven't traded Swisher, they have taken the first step in getting Almonte ready for the big time by putting him in spring training games.
And so far this year, he's a perfect 2-for-2 in two games.
OK, so yeah, small sample right now, but at the moment, he's shown his skills and they look really good. He doesn't have a tool that stands out, but he's a good all-around player.
Last year, in Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, he combined for double digits in homers and steals, with a .276 batting average.
He also can play all three outfield positions, and bat at both sides of the plate, just like Nick Swisher (who, by the way, becomes a free agent after this year).
Of course, I don't see him playing in the big leagues until September, and even then, he'll be used as a fourth outfielder, with maybe a start or two to give one of the outfielders a rest. But when September comes along, I look forward to seeing what he can do.
For now, enjoy him in spring training and in either Double-A or Triple-A (or a mix of both).