Yankees Prospects Who Are Ready Right Now to Replace Curtis Granderson

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2013

February 24, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson (14) reacts after he was hit in the forearm by a pitch during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Replacing the power that Curtis Granderson provided the New York Yankees simply isn't feasible—you don't replace someone who has gone deep 84 times over the past two years, especially not as spring training is getting underway.

Granderson, who was plunked Sunday by Toronto's J.A. Happ in the Yankees' second Grapefruit League game, is expected to miss the next 10 weeks or so with a fractured forearm, according to the YES Network's Jack Curry:

Granderson has a fractured right forearm. Estimated that he will be major league ready in 10 weeks.

— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) February 24, 2013

To paraphrase Depeche Mode's "Blasphemous Rumors," the baseball gods have a sick sense of humor.

Nobody's laughing around the Yankees clubhouse, where the task at hand is finding the best option to fill in for the Grandyman while he's sidelined.

Neither of the team's three best outfield prospects—Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams Jr.—are ready for big league action, which would lead you to believe that the team will look outside for help.

But the injury happened early enough during spring training that a 10-week recovery puts Granderson on track to return somewhere around the beginning of May.

It's quite possible that the Yankees are going to make do with what they have until he returns.

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The cupboard is pretty bare, but let's take a look at three prospects already on the 40-man roster who could hold down an outfield spot until Granderson returns.

Zoilo Almonte

Primarily a right fielder in 2012 with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, the 23-year-old Almonte has experience playing both left and center field, with 122 and 81 minor league games under his belt at the positions, respectively.

A switch-hitter, Almonte is coming off of the most productive season of his young career, one that saw him hit .270 with 21 home runs and 70 RBI while going 15-of-19 on stolen base attempts.

It was in spring training last season that Almonte caught the eye of Yankees skipper Joe Girardi (per Chad Jennings of The Journal News):

His at-bats are really good. His defense has been good. He’s run the bases. Everything that you’d ask a player to do, he’s done. This is a young man that really kind of burst on the scene a little bit. He showed up on the radar, (and) we might really have something. He’s just continued to do it in camp. Has there been a hitter more productive?

Almonte finished spring training last season going 4-for-14 (.286) with a pair of doubles, four RBI, a run scored and four strikeouts

He strikes out more often than you'd like (nearly 23 percent of the time), and he seems allergic to walks, drawing a free pass less than six percent of the time in 2012.

That he can hit from both sides of the plate, however, may give him a leg up on his competition should the Yankees decide to stay in-house.

Melky Mesa

Mesa made his major league debut in 2012, appearing in three games and picking up a hit in two at-bats—a RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning off Boston reliever Andrew Bailey in the Yankees' 10-2 victory in the next-to-last game of the regular season.

The 26-year-old outfielder has legitimate 20- to 30-home run potential, excellent speed and plays above-average defense in the outfield, with the ability to play all three spots. As recently as 2011, Baseball America called him the best athlete in the Yankees system and the outfielder with the best arm.

He's got a lot going for him.

What he doesn't have, however, is plate discipline.

Mesa struck out in more than 23 percent of his plate appearances last year while drawing a walk just more than seven percent of the time.

This isn't anything new, as Mesa has struggled to make consistent contact throughout his minor league career, evidenced by a .244 career batting average.

But on raw talent alone, Mesa stands above the rest of his in-house competition for the gig.

Eduardo Nunez

OK, maybe he's not technically a prospect anymore, but can you think of a better opportunity to get his bat in the lineup on a daily basis?

Nunez, who has botched and butchered the art of playing infield defense when given the opportunity at the big league level, has spent limited time in the outfield, splitting eight games between the corner spots over parts of three big league seasons.

There's no question that he can hit major league pitching, and his defense may prove to be more than adequate (and far less costly) patrolling left field than it would be in the infield.

With Travis Hafner already slotted to take at-bats against right-handed pitching as the designated hitter, the Yankees could slide Matt Diaz into the spot vacated by Nunez, taking those at-bats against left-handed starters.


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