New York Yankees: 5 Players Who Will Be Toughest to Cut or Demote

Colin Kennedy@ColinKennedy10Featured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

New York Yankees: 5 Players Who Will Be Toughest to Cut or Demote

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    As March fades into April, the New York Yankees will be forced to make numerous defining decisions about many of their promising prospects. And rest assured, some players will be tougher to demote (or cut) than others. 

    An influx of injuries has made this year's Spring Training more interesting than most. The loss of several key components means that opportunity for the Yankees young guns has never been greater. 

    But not everyone can take advantage. 

    Names like Melky Mesa and Ronnier Mustelier have battled for a spot in the outfield, while a recent injury to Clay Rapada has left the door open for Josh Spence and perhaps Vidal Nuno.

    That being said, all four could potentially receive disappointing news in the next 10 days. 

    Jose Pirela has shown the ability to make consistent contact against major league pitchers, however he too will likely begin the year in the minor leagues. 

    It's a friendly competition on the surface, but a bitter battle to the end for those seeking jobs at the major league level. 

    Here are five names that Yankee fans might be upset to see left off of the Opening Day roster in 2013.

Josh Spence

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    One name that could be left off of the Opening Day roster is Josh Spence. 

    The 25-year-old left-hander out of Arizona State has been nothing but impressive during his limited action at spring training. 

    However, the competition for the final relief roles this year is tough. And Spence could be the odd man out before it is all said and done. 

    His small sample of work (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 K) won't make it easy for Yankees manager Joe Girardi to demote him back to the minor leagues.

    Spence likely leads the list of lefties expected to compete for Clay Rapada's spot in the bullpen. 

    But in the end, it comes down to team needs and managerial preferences.

    If Girardi believes that someone like Cody Eppley or Shawn Kelley is more capable of getting hitters out in late-game situations, then he won't be afraid to enter the 2013 season with just one left-handed reliever. 

    Of course, a noteworthy conclusion to the spring could slot Spence ahead of the aforementioned right-handers.

    But as of now, it appears as though he might be on the outside looking in. 

Melky Mesa

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    Entering spring training, Melky Mesa was on the short list to bolster a depleted New York Yankee outfield. 

    As one of the few minor leaguers with big league experience (albeit very limited), the 26-year-old right-hander hoped to cut down on the strike outs and earn a spot on the Opening Day roster. 

    Unfortunately, that hasn't exactly been the case thus far.

    Mesa offers the Yankees an enticing prospect for power—something that the 2013 ball club will likely lack—but with just more than a week remaining before the regular season, he might need a miracle to make the team. 

    With just 8 H and 13 K in 43 AB, Mesa's .186 AVG and .255 OBP aren't exactly what New York was looking for in the outfield. 

    Given three of his eight hits have been home runs, the above-average defender maintains a slim chance of making the team.

    However, if the season were to start today, it might be an unfortunate farewell for Melky Mesa. 

Ronnier Mustelier

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    For a while, it appeared as though Ronnier Mustelier would almost certainly occupy a roster spot on the New York Yankees come Opening Day. 

    His positional flexibility and impressive performance last year at the Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre levels made Mustelier one of the favorites to fill in for the handful of injured Yankees. 

    But after suffering serious bruises to his legs following a run-in with a metal railing, the lifetime minor leaguer may yet again find himself in the lower levels of competition come April. 

    His 7-for-27 (.259) mark at the plate certainly bodes better than Mesa's .186 average. However, the recent additions of experienced players in Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch could make the climb too steep for Mustelier. 

    A revitalized return from injury may make the final week of spring training interesting. But don't be surprised if Mustelier's bruised legs and subpar defensive abilities prevent him from making the squad in 2013. 

Jose Pirela

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    As an unfortunate byproduct of the complicated system that is Major League Baseball management, one of the more impressive young hitters at spring training likely won't make the New York Yankees Opening Day roster. 

    Jose Pirela has recorded 10 H, including 2 2B and 2 3B, in 30 AB thus far in Tampa.

    But because he is competing for a utility position, it remains probable that he won't be wearing the Yankee pinstripes during regular season action anytime soon. 

    Even with injuries to Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, New York seems to be set with baseball's form of the flex position.

    Both Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix have extensive Major League experience, and each is expected to beat out Pirela for the available utility infielder positions. 

    At just 23 years of age, the Venezuelan who hit below .300 at Double-A Trenton last season still has a great shot at making a big league roster in the future. 

    And while additional injuries or complications to Jeter's recovering ankle could help bring him to New York sooner rather than later, Pirela must continue to compete knowing that he will likely be elsewhere come Opening Day. 

Vidal Nuno

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    Fresh off of five shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, Vidal Nuno is one name that fans will be disappointed to see left off of the Yankees Opening Day roster. 

    The 25-year-old California native has torn up the lower levels of New York's minor league system after being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 48th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft. 

    And the trend hasn't faltered this spring. 

    A 2.45 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Trenton last season helped earn Nuno an invitation to compete for a roster spot on the Yankees this year; however, the lefty likely has one more season in the minors before taking the next step. 

    It's unfortunate for a guy who has surrendered just five hits and one run in more than eight innings of work. Factor in his 12 strike outs and the numbers reveal the makings of a quality major league pitcher. 

    But as we all know, nearly every pitcher not named Stephen Strasburg is going to be forced with multiple years of preparation at the minor league level. 

    And despite his success against big league hitters in Spring Training this year, Vidal Nuno might want to start packing his bags for Scranton (Triple-A). 

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