The New York Yankees are looking to save a few bucks over the next few seasons, so the integration of young players will be vital.
If you don't believe me, just ask Hal Steinbrenner, per Kevin Davidoff of the New York Post: “The young players that have stepped up are going to have to continue to do so,” Steinbrenner said, “and some of the ones that haven’t yet are going to have to.”
There are some promising prospects in the Yanks system who could help get the job done. But as is the case with all prospects, nothing is certain.
Let's take a look at some of New York's prospects who have the most to prove when spring training begins in a month.
If there were ever a season for Romine to establish himself as this team's catcher for the foreseeable future, it's now.
Much to the surprise of many, the Yanks have yet to sign an impact catcher this offseason and instead have a stable of catchers that has left the starting job wide open.
Among backstops like Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Bobby Wilson, Romine has a golden opportunity to establish himself as a major-league catcher, or at the very least a reliable backup.
Romine is a solid defensive catcher, but does need work as a hitter. However, his issues are similar to those of his current competition—whether it be offensive, defensive or both—so none of the catching candidates have a major leg up over the other.
Romine did battle back issues last season, which no doubt slowed his progression into the majors. As long as he's healthy and can prove he isn't a liability on offense, Romine should leave spring training with a job on the big-league club.
The biggest key to the Yanks getting under $189 million in salary by 2014 and avoiding the luxury tax is to develop their own pitching.
Betances is one of the candidates to fill that need. But after a 2012 season marred by injury and major ineffectiveness, the doubts about the Yanks' prospect are mounting by the day.
Between Double-A and Triple-A last season, Betances was 6-9 with a 6.44 ERA. Control was also an issue for the young right-hander as he walked 99 batters in a little more than 131 innings.
The future once looked bright for Betances and Manny Banuelos, who were known as New York's "Killer B's." But now that Banuelos will miss all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery (per Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com), it looks like Betances is the only "B" that will have a chance to prove something this season.
Betances doesn't have to make the team this spring to prove he belongs, but he certainly does have to come close. If he can make it a tough decision for manager Joe Girardi, that could give Betances a ton of confidence for the 2013 season.
If all goes well, we could see Betances in the majors in 2013, but he has to prove he belongs there first.
Phelps played a significant role on the Yankees n 2012, so expect the young right-hander to be thrust back into a position of importance in 2013.
With the Yanks last year, Phelps pitched in 33 games between the bullpen and starting rotation. In both roles, Phelps was impressive and gave New York a swingman who could spot start and move back to the bullpen when no longer needed.
This year, Phelps has the opportunity to prove he belongs as a starter in the majors. After a 2012 campaign that saw Ivan Nova struggle mightily, there's no question that a spot in the rotation could be open for Phelps. Now all he has to do is take it.
But that might be a tall order. The Yanks would love for Nova to rebound and be their No. 5 guy, but the opportunity to beat out Nova certainly exists for Phelps.
At the very least, Phelps will return to his role from the 2012 season. The loss of Rafael Soriano shortens the Yanks' bullpen a bit, so Phelps will be enormously important in that spot for New York this season.
Can Mark Montgomery dominate in the majors like he did in Single-A and Double-A last season?
That is the question everyone will be wondering as the big right-hander gets his chance to crack the Yanks' bullpen in 2013.
In 46 games between both leagues last season, Montgomery was 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA, adding 15 saves to those impressive numbers. Montgomery could be a future closer, but for now the Yanks just need him to fill out their bullpen.
With the loss of Rafael Soriano and the uncertain future of Joba Chamberlain, Montgomery could be the consistent bullpen arm the team is seeking. Granted, he hasn't pitched in the majors, but spring training will be the perfect opportunity for Montgomery to prove he has big-league stuff.
If Montgomery doesn't make the team, it wouldn't be a loss by any stretch. Don't forget, he hasn't even pitched in Triple-A yet, so more progression is figured to be needed until Montgomery is a major leaguer.
However, showing he can get out major-league hitters will go a long way toward making Montgomery a major-league reliever in the near future.
Canzler has played in just 29 games during his big-league career, yet here he is with a chance to make the Yanks' big-league roster in 2013. New York recently claimed Canzler off waivers, per John Harper of the New York Daily News.
At age 26, Canzler has spent several seasons in the minors trying to improve his game. The 2012 season might have been the year he got over the hump. In Triple-A, Canzler hit .265 with 22 homers and 79 RBI, playing first base and all three outfield spots.
When he got to the majors, Canzler looked solid in a small sample size, hitting .269 with three homers and 11 RBI in just 93 at-bats for the Cleveland Indians.
Canzler has some pop in his bat and could be the answer for the Yanks, who are looking for a power bat from the right side to complement the team's three left-handed-hitting outfielders.
As it stands now, the competition will likely be between Canzler and Matt Diaz, so there is a great chance that the 26-year-old is on the team when the season begins in April.