After the Tampa Yankees had a 66-72 2015 campaign, the team underwent some changes to the coaching staff.
Pat Osborn, who managed the Staten Island Yankees to a 2015 New York-Penn League Championship appearance was named the 2016 Tampa Yankees manager in January. Tim Norton and Antonio Pacheco will be joining Osborn as new coaches to the Tampa Yankees’ staff. Norton a pitching coach for Single-A Charleston in 2015 who’s staff led the league in strikeouts. Antonio Pacheco a former five-time Cuban National Series Champion will be the defensive coach.
Kaprielian who played in Staten Island and the Gulf Coast in 2015 is set to move up in the Yankees’ system fairly quick. He is joined by 20-year old Jorge Mateo, and the two are expected to finish the year in Trenton Double-A if all goes according to plan.
Mateo will have time to work throughout the minors and the main reason is the emergence of Didi Gregorius. I suspect the Yankees will see exactly what they have in Didi this season before they make any moves with Mateo. Should Didi show the steps in improvement needed, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Mateo is ready to debut in the Bronx.
As for Jacob Lindgren, who comes as a shock to most for starting the season in Tampa, he is expected to finish the year in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Triple-A. However, out of the three, he has the best chance of being called up to the Bronx again this season after making his debut in 2015. Lindgren did struggle to some degree in Pinstripes last season when he was called up, but he also showed why his nickname was the ‘Strikeout Factory’. The Yankees could’ve rushed the then 22-year old lefty into their bullpen as they were dealing with injuries in the worst of ways, but they elected to give him a ‘cup of coffee’ before being sent back down to the minors to continue his development. There has not been a specific reason as to why he is not starting the season in Scranton/WilkesBarre or Trenton, but it’s exciting to see the prospect of him teaming up with Kaprielian and Lindgren.
The strongest part of the Tampa Yankees’ 2016 roster is undoubtedly their infield. Along with Mateo will be 15th ranked prospect Miguel Andujar at third base, Abiatal Avelino at second, and a platoon of Mike Ford and Billy Fleming at first. Catching will be split between Francisco Diaz and Santiago Nessy.
If/when Jorge Mateo moves up to Trenton, the spotlight will be on the aforementioned Miguel Andujar, as he led Tampa in hits, doubles, triples, and was second in RBIs during the 2015 season. The third baseman could move up relatively quickly in the next couple of seasons, as the Yankees’ system doesn’t have the strongest of third base prospects.
The very speedy Abiatal Avelino at second base posted a .252 batting average last season with a team-leading 38 stolen bases.
Mike Ford who was second behind Andujar in hits and doubles will be starting at first again. His power numbers went down once he moved from Charleston to Tampa, so he’ll look to improve upon his six homers from last season.
In the outfield will be Austin Aune, Michael O’Neill, Jake Skole, Mark Payton, and Zack Zehner. It was revealed that Dustin Fowler was moved to Trenton Double-A just last week, so expect plenty of playing time for Austin Aune, who was in Charleston last season and will make his Tampa Yankees debut this season along with Zack Zehner who was with the Staten Island Yankees in 2015. Dustin Fowler is a big loss, but it gives new arrivals a chance to step up in his place.
As for the starting rotation it will consist of Vicente Campos, Ian Clarkin, Chance Adams, James Kaprielian, and Gabe Encinas. Backing them up in the bullpen will be Jonathan Holder, Joe Maher, Dan Carmarena, Jacob Lindgren, Jordan Foley, Matt Marsh, Dillon McNamera, and Caleb Frare.
Campos will look to improve on his 3-7 record in his first season with Tampa last year. Ian Clarkin was moved up to Tampa late last year and in his one appearance he gave up one earned run in five innings of work. It’s no secret the Yankees have high hopes for Kaprielian as he’ll start his mission on becoming what the organization sees as their next dominant pitcher along side Luis Severino.
Overall, the Tampa Yankees have a very promising outlook with a new coaching staff and a majority of their top guys returning. They could very easily improve upon their 66-72 record from 2015 and go far above expectation. Their home opener is today at George M. Steinbrenner field, 7:00 pm against the Lakeland Flying Tigers.