Farm Team Intros
Kicking off the rotation, Vidal Nuno took the ball as the RailRiders’ Opening Day starter with Brett Marshall, Dellin Betances, and CM Wang rounding out the staff. Warren will begin the season with the Yankees, serving as their long reliever until Phil Hughes comes off the Disabled List, and then he’ll return to the Scranton rotation. With the injury to Kuroda he may end up making a spot start if Hirok! can’t go.
The Rail Riders bullpen looks to be a strength for the team and could funnel on the the Bronx, starting the season off with Chase Whitley, Jim Miller, Preston Claiborne, Josh Spence and Josh Romanski. Bootcheck will start off in the rotation filling in for Warren, and of course Mark Montgomery rounds out the staff. Montgomery may end up being an early season callup if someone stumbles in the Bronx. He’s been a fast mover and impressed in the fall leagues, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a few short weeks.
Corban Joseph, Luke Murton, Ronnier Mustelier, Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte, David Adams, Austin Romine, Dan Johnson, Addison Maruszak and Thomas Neal amke up the lineup for the RailRiders. Adams makes his return after a short leave of absence on the roster, having signed a new MiL contract. Z Almonte will spend his first full year in Scranton while Mesa gets another chance at cutting his K’s down and possibly pushing his way to the big club.
Double-A Trenton Thunder:
Trenton is the team to watch this year, with some of the systems best to start the year and a couple more with a chance to get promoted there. Top prospects Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin will be starting in the outfield with underdog Ramon Flores rounding out the OF. JR Murphy will be the Thunder’s starting catcher with Kyle Higashioka playing backup. Kyle Roller makes the jump up from High-A to serve as the everyday first baseman with big league Spring Training participants Jose Pirela, Walter Ibarra, and Rob Segedin also making the roster. One of the better pitchers in camp, Jose Ramirez will step in to the rotation shortly, joining Nik Turley, Zach Nuding, Matt Tracy and Francisco Rondon. Tom Kahnle, and Branden Pinder will be coming out of the pen. Graham Stoneburner will be returning to Trenton after an injury plagued 2012.
Trenton has an excellent all-around pitching staff and combined with their offense look to be a formidable group. The outfield is one of the best in the minors, headed by Austin and Heathcott, but don’t forget about Flores, who is an excellent hitter in his pown right, and could really climb the prospect ladder if he develops some power. At his age it’s not at all out of the question, so keep an eye on the 21 year old in his first year in AA ball.
High-A Tampa Yankees:
The Tampa squad will be headlined by outfielder Mason Williams and catcher Gary Sanchez. Williams and Sanchez both got the call to Tampa in 2012 along with Tyler Austin, but Williams’ season ended early after tearing his labrum and requiring surgery. Neither player is likely to remain in High-A all season, but that will largely depend on the result of their play during the first part of the year, as well as whether or not they will be able to get in regular playing time. The Trenton outfield is rather full with prospects, as is the catcher spot. Williams will be joined in the outfield by Ben Gamel, who put together a strong season in Charleston last year and is also looking to add some power. He supposedly bulked up a bit over the winter, so he could be one to make a move. Second basemen Angelo Gumbs and Anderson Feliz, catcher Francisco Arcia, first baseman Matt Snyder, and infielder Ali Castillo will make up the remainder of the lineup.
Pitching for Tampa has some well known names along with some quick movers in the system. Bryan Mitchell, Shane Greene, and Rigoberto Arrebato all begin the season in High-A, along with fast movers Corey Black and Nick Goody. Goody pitched across three different levels last year after being drafted in 2011. Black will start out in the rotation, but unless he can prove he can maintain his stuff throughout the long haul of a start he’ll be relegated to the pen. Both could be on a fast track to reach the majors and continue the trend of excellent relievers to move through the system. Bryan Mitchell might be the biggest name on the pitching side for Tampa, possessing some of the best stuff of any of our young pitchers. He pitched 120 innings for Charleston a year ago and will try to gain some consistency and make yet another move forward. Baseball America considers his curveball to be the best in the Yankees’ system, as well as earning praise from Jim Callis.
Low-A Charleston RiverDogs:
Charleston’s pitching rotation will be led by newly stateside Rafael DePaula and Jose Campos, in addition to Gabe Encinas, Evan Rutckyj, Brett Gerritse, Cesar Vargas, and Derek Varnadore. The latter three will be used on an as needed basis with the former more set into their starting roles. Charlie Short will also be returning to the Charleston bullpen this season with last year’s Staten Island closer, Taylor Garrison.
Campos started off hot in 2012, but a bout of elbow inflammation cost him the rest of his season. He attempted to pitch through what turned out to be unusual soreness, but not wanting to disappoint he trudged on and ended up further injuring himself. A rookie mistake, and one he’s more mindful of moving forward. DePaula will be pitching in the United States for the first time after a suspension and then some visa issues that cost him two years. Both pitchers are some of the best in the low levels of the farm, and we’re looking forward to see what they can do in a full season for Campos and against better hitters for DePaula. Rutckyj doesn’t quite have the name yet that Campos, or DePaula, but he has a lot of potential and could make his name known this year.
The RiverDogs’ offense will be led by Dante Bichette Jr. and Cito Culver, who will be repeating the level to start the season; Bichetter looking to bounce back from an ugly first year in full season ball, and Culver ditching his switch hitting ways in hopes of gaining some consistency from the right side of the plate. They will be joined by catchers Wes Wilson, and Peter O’Brien, hard hitting first baseman Greg Bird, newly reappointed second baseman Rob Refsnyder, and infielders Claudio Custodio, Saxon Butler, and Fu Lin Kuo. Outfielders Yeicok Calderon, Taylor Dugas, and Danny Oh are the projected starting outfielders for the RiverDogs. Bird looks to get settled in at first base after back issues forced him off the catcher spot, and he’ll need to keep up his work at the plate if he’s going to be a major league first baseman. So far his bat has not disappointed. Refsnyder is still getting settled in at second, but has adjusted nicely and has a great stick for the position.
The short season leagues don’t start until later this summer, and will be filled with mostly draftees and those who are rehabbing their way back to the lower levels. These staffs will be filled out following the draft, but keep an eye out for some of the Dominican Summer League guys to make their debuts, namely catcher Luis Torrens and shortstop Abiatal Abelino, who are two of the best from that group. Also pitcher Luis Severino is making waves in camp, and has beend compared to Jose Ramirez, with a big big fastball and some good offspeed stuff for such a young arm.