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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Pinch hitting: Our own SJ44

Posted by: Peter Abraham - Posted in Misc on Jan 18, 2008 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

He doesn’t have his own blog but SJ44 has been a loyal and prolific poster on this blog for a long time. A businessman from Florida, Joe keeps close track of the prospects and has had a chance to meet several people in the organization. Because of his knowledge of the prospects, I invited him to give some thoughts:

We have now entered what I like to call Prospect Season.

Prospect Season consists of various perspectives from people who follow minor league player development. With the Yankees, this has become a growing passion due to the fact we actually have prospects again! So much so, there are people in baseball who now feel the Yankees have one of the three or four best farm systems in the game. A FAR cry from 2004 when the consensus was the Yankees had the worst farm system in baseball.

One of the problems I encounter with these lists are they often fail to inform fans whether or not the listed players can actually help the parent club in 2008. Let’s face it, that’s what most fans want to know when it comes to prospects.

To that end, I have compiled a list featuring the four players who can impact the Yankees this season. I did not include Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy on the list. Mainly because, in my mind, they are no longer prospects. They are young players with an expected role on the team. My list features guys some fans may not think about when it comes to players who can help the Yankees win in 2008.

So, here goes:

Jose Veras: In my mind, he is the one guy whose success (or lack of success) can lead to a domino effect on the Yankees this season. If he is successful, Joba becomes a full-time starter faster, bullpen roles become more defined and the Yankees have another young, power arm in front of Mariano. If he is not successful, Joba may stay in the bullpen, guys like LaTroy Hawkins and/or Kyle Farnsworth will have to take on bigger roles (not what the Yankees want) and they may have to go outside the organization (and part with a player or two they don’t want to lose) to strengthen the bullpen. Does that put a lot of pressure on Veras? Perhaps, but he is showing that he may be up to the task. He is coming off a dominant Winter League season. His fastball was consistently clocked in the mid-90’s and the bite returned to his slider. More importantly, his control was outstanding. If Veras’ performance from the winter carries over to spring training, he is not only going to make the team, he will have a key role in the bullpen. Mariano Rivera once told me he thought Veras had the most potential of any of the younger guys they have tried in the bullpen. This spring, we will see if he is correct.

Ross Ohlendorf: Here is another young, power arm whose success can make life easier for the Yankees. Unlike Veras, who could develop into an 8th inning guy, Ohlendorf is a guy who can pitch two innings at a time, something the Yankee bullpen may need early in the season. He gives hitters a different look from Veras, Hawkins, Farnsworth and Chamberlain because of his power sinker. has always been his biggest enemy. If he can harness his control, he is another young, power arm who will have input toward the Yankees hopes in 2008. If he can’t, he becomes trade bait because there are too many young, power arms in the organization. If he doesn’t perform well this year, chances are he will be passed by other guys in the next year. Simply put, 2008 is a make or break year for Ross Ohlendorf in the Yankees organization.

Juan Miranda: While we like to concentrate on pitching (and rightly so), Miranda is an intriguing guy to watch this season. While his defense won’t remind anybody of Donnie Baseball, the guy can flat out hit. Last year was the first time he played organized baseball in almost two years. By the end of the season, every time he made contact, he hit bullets. He will start the season in AAA. However, I think it’s safe to say Jason Giambi won’t hold up physically for a full season. If Miranda hits, it’s not inconceivable to see he and Shelley Duncan platooning at first base at some point in the season.

Mark Melancon: I have been high on Melancon since the first time I saw him pitch at The University of Arizona. Bases loaded, no outs against rival Arizona State and he struck out the side to get out of the jam. He was the most dominant college relief pitcher in the country in 2006, and he pitched most of that season with a sore arm. He is now 100 percent healthy, and is cleared to throw all of his pitches at the start of spring training. The plan is for him to start the season in Tampa and gradually make his way through the system as the weather gets warmer. I not only expect him to be in New York after the All Star Break, I believe he will play an important role in the stretch run. He is that good. He has everything you look for in a relief pitcher: stuff, location, makeup, guts and a short memory.

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