The seemingly never-ending injury brigade. The Yankees are now down to their third-string players in some areas, such as catcher, third base, and in the bullpen. However, it has given fans a chance to see what is brewing in the farm system, a re-development effort that has been a big part of Brian Cashman’s front office over the last few years. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the minor leaguers who are making an impact at the big-league level this year:
Note: some of the more advanced stats that are available (WAR, R/tot, etc.) that are available for long-time MLB players are not available for minor leaguers.
David Adams might be a keeper, folks. Though he has split time between second and third, he was a shortstop in his youth, and thus has made an easy transition to third base (especially since it looks more and more like second base will belong to Robinson Cano for a very long time). In each season since 2009, playing at Charleston, Trenton, Tampa and Scranton, Adams has not hit below a slash line of: .306/.368/.450 since 2009. Though the competition has changed in the years since he was drafted out of Virginia, Adams has proven to be an offensive threat at any level, putting up exceptional numbers. He doesn’t put up huge power numbers, but there are a lot of other people sandwiched in the Yankee lineup (and will be for quite some time) who do. He is sure-handed with a glove, topping out at only 8 errors as a season-high in 2012 with Trenton. It’s likely that due to roster issues- between bench depth and the bullpen- that did not make the 25-man out of Spring Training, but it may be that he will have the inside track heading into 2014 with the likely exit of Kevin Youkilis and waning ARod. It is also likely that he will be sent down to Scranton at the re-activation of Youkilis, too. At age 26, he isn’t exactly young, but is younger than the other two primary third basemen on the roster- Kevin Youkilis, on a one-year deal, and the increasingly maligned Alex Rodriguez- so he could be a temporary and cheap stop-gap, as he is not due for arbitration until 2016 and not due for free agency until 2019. All in all, the future of third base, particularly as the games played for ARod diminishes, will probably be with Adams.
Austin Romine isn’t the best catcher in the Yankees system- that would be Gary Sanchez- but he is the one that is the closest to being big league ready. Primarily a defensive catcher, Romine will likely battle Francisco Cervelli for the full-time catching job at some point, bridging the gap between the platoon tandem the team has at present and Sanchez. He is not an offensive powerhouse, and hits in the mid-.200s, but that might not hurt his chances. Joe Girardi has historically leaned towards more towards defensive skills than offensive production when selecting his catchers, and Romine certainly fits that bill. He has had a sparking fielding percentage during his time in the minors, and may be better defensively than Sanchez (though Sanchez’s bat will ultimately give him the edge in the pecking order). Romine has struggled at the plate in limited playing time in the majors, but perhaps having extended time outside of a late-season roster expansion will get him more acclimated to big-league pitchers, and at least keep him from pressing. At 24 years old, Romine will be Yankee property until 2019, and will not be arbitration eligible until 2015, serving as the perfect alternative to Chris Stewart and Cervelli, but also holding down the fort until Sanchez is ready, perhaps in two to three years.
Vidal Nuno was a relatively unknown player to Yankees fans prior to the 2013 season. In 8 IP, including a turn through the rotation, Nuno has a measly 1.13 ERA and has allowed only 1 ER. He isn’t known as an exceptionally hard thrower (logging a fastball at about 88 miles per hour), but can locate extremely well, which is the reason for his dominant performances at all levels (he has a career 2.85 ERA). He is a bit older at 24 that other guys in the system, but the fact that Yankees passed on Adam Warren in favor of Nuno for a spot-start speaks volumes about his abilities. Nuno isn’t one of the most highly touted prospects, but he may be one of the most reliable, as well. He should have a long-term place in the bullpen as the long man, at the minimum, and likely have a spot-start here and there. With the future uncertain on Phil Hughes, who is a free-agent-to-be, and Andy Pettitte‘s consistent injury breakdowns, Nuno may be on the short list to wind up either in the back end of the rotation or in the bullpen.
If we learn nothing else from this season, we have learned that the Yankees have quite a few decent players lying in wait in the minor leagues that have got a taste of big-league action this season, and those we have seen aren’t even some of the highest-touted players: Gary Sanchez, Dante Bichette, Jr., or even the long-injured Michael Pineda. For all the talk about cutting payroll and consternation about being unable to sign big free-agents, the Yankees have a good number of solid baseball players in-house, too. No matter what this season brings for the Yankees, as a Yankee fan, one has to be happy about seeing the bright future of the team.