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Position player notes from Mark Newman

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Here are a few leftover notes from vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman. Some are related to the minor leagues, some to the big leagues. I also have some leftover pitching notes that I’ll post a bit later. 

By the way, this came from what was supposed to be a five minute conversation last week about Jesus Montero. I just wanted to confirm the Yankees’ plans to have Montero open the season in Triple-A [2]. Then Newman and I talked about the infielders on the 40-man [3]. Then we kept talking for another 20 minutes. Every time I post something about the minor leagues, I seem to get at least one email telling me I’m not in Scranton any more and I shouldn’t be writing about the minor league system. But I tend to think this stuff is worth knowing, and especially on a fairly slow day like today, it can bring a different perspective to a major league issue, such as…

• I’ve read some concerns about Brett Gardner’s jumps in center field. Newman acknowledged that Gardner occasionally took bad routes, but he said that’s nothing new. He said he saw the same thing when Melky Cabrera and Bernie Williams first got to the big leagues. “We can simulate everything in the minor leagues except the three decks,” Newman said. That third deck makes the ball difficult to track, and it takes some getting used to.

• Last weekend, Juan Miranda began playing again in the Dominican. I read several times that he was injured, but Newman said that was never the case. He said Miranda’s team simply brought in one of the local favorites to play first base. “I think they brought in one of their superstar guys,” Newman said. “But (Miranda) played well.” Through 13 games, Miranda has a .409 average with two home runs and 11 RBI.

• Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann can play all three outfield spots, but Newman said he profiles best as a right fielder. “Our guys have scouted him,” Newman said. “He’s a big guy that can run. He’s a toolsy guy. I hope we can keep him because I really like the guy.”

• There’s not much upper-level outfield depth in the Yankees system, which means Triple-A outfielder Colin Curtis could play a role next season. The good news is, Curtis destroyed the Arizona Fall League with a .397 average, .472 on-base and five home runs. That’s an offensive league, but still, those are great numbers.
“He’s been experimenting with his setup a little bit,” Newman said. “How much flex in his legs. How low his center of gravity should be. Sometimes he gets a little lower than others. Recently he hasn’t used quite as much flex. He led the league in OPS. Everything being relative, relative to the rest of the league, he was still really good.”

• I wrote this last week in the post about Montero opening in Triple-A, but for those who follow the minor league system closely, it’s worth repeating because of the enormous depth behind the plate. This is how Newman said the minor league starting catching situation is likely to stack up on opening day:

Triple-A: Jesus Montero
Double-A: Austin Romine
High-A: undefined
Low-A: Kyle Higashioka
Extended ST: Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy

Obviously, there will be others mixed into different roles (P.J. Pilittere, Kyle Anson, Jose Gil, Mitch Abeita) but those are five are the biggest name catchers in the system, and they’ll be spread throughout the organization. It’s a pretty good situation.