New York Yankees: 5 Prospects Who Will Play Major Roles Next Season
Every year, the Yankees outspend almost every other team in baseball in payroll and are known for their extravagant free-agent purchases. Players like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia have agreed to long-term contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
With the Yankees filling the field with All-Star players (last year their everyday starting lineup had an All-Star or former All-Star at every position), there isn't much room for youth and impact from their farm system.
However, that doesn't mean that their farm system isn't or hasn't been strong with numerous prospects ready to contribute. The Bronx Bombers' age and new restrictive spending rules given by principal owner Hal Steinbrenner will surely make more and more space for the Yankees' young guns to make an impact at the major league level.
Here is a list of five prospects who will have an impact in 2013.
After the departure of slugger Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in last offseason's blockbuster trade that brought the Yankees Michael Pineda, Romine became the Yankees most major league-ready catching prospect.
He is bordering on the majors at a pivotal time for Yankee catchers when Jorge Posada has recently retired and Yankee management will be hesitant to sign the weak-hitting and aging Russell Martin to more and more one-year deals or a long-term contract.
Romine will never be the hitter Jorge Posada was or that Montero could be, but he can hold his own with the bat and is an excellent defender. He can handle a pitching staff, throw runners out and block balls in the dirt well enough to play every day in the major leagues.
Romine sat out most of last season with a back injury that limited him to only 31 games, but will surely be back this season. He will likely start in Triple-A, but in time could find his way to the majors to be the Yankees' backup catcher or even a starter if injuries hit.
Some might remember a certain other Yankee prospect who played the outfield and was named Melky. Yes, Melky Cabrera won the All-Star Game MVP this season while playing for the San Francisco Giants (with the help of performance-enhancing drugs).
This Melky could be a similar player to Cabrera during his Yankee years. His minor league numbers are a little better than Melky Cabrera's were, and he has better natural tools, though. Melky Mesa has definite power and speed, hitting 26 doubles and 23 home runs over two levels (Double- and Triple-A) last season while stealing 22 bases.
He is a little old for a prospect at 25 years old (he will be 26 at the start of next season), but there is no reason to think that with the uncertainty surrounding the Yankee outfield that Mesa couldn't make the team as a fourth outfielder in April. Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones are all free agents, and it is probable that at least two or three of them won't return.
That leaves the Yankees with Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner to roam the outfield. Assuming that they bring in another veteran to fill their third starting spot, the door is still wide open for Mesa to contribute off the bench and in part-time duty.
Don't be surprised to see this Melky contribute in a part-time role similar to the way Melky Cabrera contributed in his first few seasons. If he impresses, he could even grab a starting spot.
It seems like just yesterday that the "Killer B's" were proclaimed to be the savior and future of the Yankees pitching staff: former first-round pick Andrew Brackman, tall and hard-throwing right-hander Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, who Mariano Rivera called the best pitching prospect he's ever seen.
Two seasons later, Betances was demoted to Double-A, Banuelos will sit out the entirety of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Brackman's contract option was declined before he signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds before the 2012 season.
The 2013 Yankees farm system will feature only one B of the three Killer B's, Dellin Betances. Betances has always had some of the best raw stuff in the minors, with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s at times and a hard power curve that has the potential to be a plus major league pitch.
However, like many tall pitchers with great stuff, control and consistency in mechanics eludes Betances, causing him trouble in Double-A and Triple-A when he should be dominating major league hitters. After walking 69 batters in 74.1 innings in Triple-A, Betances earned himself a demotion to Double-A to figure out his mechanics last season.
The demotion did not prove helpful. While he cut his walks down slightly (30 in 56.2 innings), he still walked an unacceptable number. The decrease in walks was probably attributable to Betances pumping the ball down the middle of the plate, a trend that resulted in a .319 opponent batting average.
Betances needs to learn to keep the ball in the strike zone, but also keep it on the corners so that hitters at any level don't crush him on a regular basis. If he figures it all out in the Arizona Fall League and in Triple-A at the start of next season, he will almost surely be considered for a bullpen role in the Bronx.
Going into the 2012 season, many debated whether Adam Warren or David Phelps would get the first call from Triple-A to either make a spot start or be called upon for bullpen work. Unfortunately for Warren, Phelps got the first call and he made a good enough impression to make the postseason roster in his first season in the big leagues.
Warren still got his chance, however, and got shelled. In his one start, he gave up six runs in merely 2.1 innings before being pulled and shipped off back to Triple-A. Despite his inauspicious start, Warren is still young and can definitely have a future in a major league rotation.
With his first-game jitters out of the way, Warren could be asked as soon as April to step in and help the team due to the uncertainty surrounding the Yankee rotation. CC Sabathia is in rehab, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are free agents and neither is a lock to return, Ivan Nova was maddeningly inconsistent last season, Michael Pineda will be out until midseason and the Yankees loved David Phelps out of the bullpen.
He features good control, only walking 46 batters in over 150 innings last season. His fastball that sits in the mid-90s plus quality breaking pitches and a changeup should allow him to hold his own at the very least in the back of the Yankee rotation in 2013 or in the bullpen similar to how David Phelps was used last season.
Consider Almonte a poor man's Melky Mesa. Almonte can hit for decent average, good power, can steal bases and can play all three outfield positions. He does a lot of things well, but possesses not one overly impressive tool.
Almonte could be good enough to warrant a call-up midseason if the Yankees are short in the outfield or if he simply out-hits Triple-A, a prospect that currently seems unlikely. However, Almonte provides something that every team in any sport desperately needs: depth.
Considering the aforementioned uncertainty in the Yankee outfield with Ichiro Suzuki, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez all potentially departing, depth will be vital for the Yankees to stay competitive next season.
Almonte has the tools to compete at the major league level as at least a fourth outfielder and with further development can be a future starter.
Bonus: Pat Venditte
OK, so Venditte may never actually get called up. However, I am too intrigued by him to ignore him as a potential major league factor for whoever is willing to give him a shot.
You've probably noticed by looking at the picture above, but Venditte can do something that no one else has ever done (other than one occasion in 1995) at the major league level since 1900. Venditte can pitch ambidextrously.
Venditte has the ultimate "funk factor" that many scouts and modern baseball minds are intrigued with. It is what led to pitchers like submariners Chad Bradford and Mike Myers getting their shot, but Venditte blows them out of the water.
He throws significantly harder with his right hand, topping out in the low 90s from the right and in the high 80s from the left side. However, his lower arm slot and sweeping slider allow him to pitch just as effectively if not more effectively from that side of the mound.
Joe Girardi loves playing the lefty-righty matchup game and would surely be excited to watch one guy pitch from both sides and prevent him making a switch.
Venditte doesn't have overpowering stuff from either side, but hopes that after he can make it to the big leagues based on uniqueness alone.
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