Robinson Cano is signed through 2013, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him stay with the Yankees well beyond his current contract. Second base is not up for grabs today, and it might not be up for grabs until the end of the decade. The Yankees have second base talent coming up through the system, but the bulk of that talent brings defensive versatility and could emerge as some sort of utility option should Cano keep his hold on second.
In the big leagues
If Cano continues his current production, and carries that into his mid-to-late 30s, the Yankees might never have a need for any of the players currently in the system to see significant time at second base. Cano is 28 years old and should be just now entering his prime. He showed last season that he’s already developed into one of the best hitters in the American League, and certainly one of the top second basemen in baseball. The Yankees have an abundance of players who could fill-in at second base to cover any sort of short-term need — nagging injury, unexpected absence — but the organization’s best-case scenario is to simply stick with Cano for the foreseeable future.
On the verge
Here’s the list: Eduardo Nunez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Reegie Corona, David Adams and Corban Joseph. Six young players, all of them ready to play second base at Double-A or higher, and all of them with enough tools to play some sort of role in the big leagues sooner rather than later. Each of them can also play at least one other position, which some defensive flexibility for potential bench roles down the line. Nunez, Pena and Russo have already gotten to New York, Corona has a spot on the 40-man and needs to come back from a late-season shoulder injury, and Adams was hitting in Trenton before an ankle injury cost him most of last season. The name to watch might be Joseph, a former fourth-round pick who’s been building prospect buzz with his bat the past two years.
Deep in the system
The top second base prospect in the lower levels was Jimmy Paredes, who put himself on the prospect map with a strong 2010 season. Paredes, though, was traded to Houston in the Lance Berkman deal, and without him, the top lower-level second base prospect might be Anderson Feliz, a former shortstop out of the Dominican Republic who hit .273 with some power in the Gulf Coast League last year. Of course, the real second base depth might ultimately depend on the development of Cito Culver and Angelo Gumbs, last year’s first- and second-round draft picks. Both are shortstops, but Cano also saw a lot of time at shortstop when he was a kid. As they develop, Culver or Gumbs could — in theory — find themselves shifted to second base.
Organizational depth chart
My own rough guess. It’s far too early for the Yankees to settle on who will be where next season.
New York: Robinson Cano
Scranton/WB: Kevin Russo, Reegie Corona
Trenton: David Adams, Corban Joseph
Tampa: Walter Ibbara, Emerson Landoni, Kevin Mahoney
Charleston: Anderson Feliz, Casey Stevenson
The big league depth chart beyond Cano probably begins with two players not listed here. Nunez and Pena are the front-runners for the big league utility job, and those two probably have a leg up should the Yankees need someone to fill in at second base for a few games (or even a few months). Russo is also in that discussion, and Adams or Joseph could climb into the mix by the end of the summer.
I have more than one player listed at every minor league level because there are a lot of multi-position players who are going to need time at second. Tampa especially could be a bit of a mix-and-match. The natural fit should have been the since-traded Paredes, and without him, a series of utility types — none of them highly touted — could get opportunities in High-A. Stevenson was the Yankees 25th-round pick last year, and he got most of the second base time at Staten Island last season, but Feliz is the bigger name of the lower-level second basemen. Additional upper-level bench depth will come from versatile infielders like Justin Snyder, Luis Nunez and Doug Bernier.
Associated Press photo of Cano, headshots of Cano, Joseph and Feliz