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Taking a look at the non-roster position players

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 26, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Position players reported to camp this weekend, so it’s a good time to take a look at the non-roster guys trying to make an impression. As it stands, there’s little reason to expect one of them to break camp on the big league roster, but they’re hoping for an unexpected door to open at some point.  

Catchers

Jose Gil
Coming off a pretty good showing in the Venezuelan Winter League, Gil is back in big league camp mostly to help handle the enormous number of pitchers throwing bullpens each day. He’s not considered much of a prospect, but he does seem to get a little more attention than he did a few years ago. Most likely he’s simply an organizational soldier, but he seems to be in line for regular playing time in Double-A Trenton this year.

Kyle Higashioka
First an admission: I really like Higashioka. I met him during his first stint in big league camp, and he’s just a nice, personable guy. Easy to talk to, easy to root for. He seems hungry to improve. That said, he would have to admit that the past two years have not been good. Defense has always provided the bulk of his prospect status, but the bat really hasn’t shown enough to keep him on the map. He’s a career .236 hitter in the lowest levels of the minors and stumbled in High-A Tampa last year. He needs some sort of offensive breakout to keep pace, especially in this catching-rich organization.  

Gustavo Molina
A veteran catcher with enough big league experience to not be blinding by the bright lights. He can handle a pitching staff, and that’s what the Yankees need from him. Just like last year, Molina is in camp on a minor league deal to provide veteran insurance. Last year he was rewarded with an unexpected spot on the Opening Day roster, but even that lasted only six at-bats. If plans fall through, Molina will once again be there as an insurance policy.

J.R. Murphy
For me, Murphy is one of the most interesting prospects in the Yankees system. His calling card is his bat, which is good enough that the Yankees have explored using Murphy at third base and in the outfield. He could very well develop into a four-corners utility man who can also play behind the plate, but that’s not necessarily his ceiling. The Yankees plan to have Murphy continue catching regularly, and there’s enough offensive upside to consider him a real candidate to develop into a big league regular at one position or another.

Gary Sanchez
This is Sanchez’s first invitation to big league camp — it’s Murphy’s too — an he’s arriving with considerable hype. Now that Jesus Montero is gone, Sanchez is certainly the team’s top catching prospect and might be their best position prospect (depending on how highly you place Mason Williams). Sanchez is still just 19 years old, and he showed some immaturity in Charleston last season. But he also showed a powerful bat that really emerged with a .544 slugging percentage in the second half. He seems to have more defensive potential than Montero, but reports also indicate that he has a long way to go behind the plate.

Infielders

Doug Bernier
A strong defensive infielder, Bernier is likely to reprise his role as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s utility man. He’s not a big guy, but his hands are outstanding at second, third or shortstop. He has limited big league experience with the Rockies, but his bat has never really shown enough to keep him in the mix for regular big league callups. The glove, though, is good enough that the Yankees have now signed him to a minor league contract three different times. He’s a true pro, and I have it on good authority that Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley likes having him on the roster.

Russell Branyan
My first full year covering minor league baseball, Branyan was bouncing around the International League with a massive reputation for insane power. He’s kind of a veteran version of Jorge Vazquez, and he’s had at least 127 big league at-bats every year since 2000. Teams keep giving him playing time because he keeps showing that power (including a massive homer at Yankee Stadium two years ago). He was a darkhorse candidate for the Yankees platoon DH opening until Raul Ibanez signed. If nothing else, he’ll put on a show in BP.

Bill Hall
A veteran with experience all over the diamond, Hall is coming off a brutal season split between Houston and San Francisco. In the past, though, he’s shown pretty good pop for a guy with such defensive versatility. He’s in camp on a minor league deal, but his experience and flexibility kept him in the running for a spot on the Yankees bench until Eric Chavez arrived. Hall’s a familiar name who’s sure to get some chances to prove that he’s better than he was last year. By all accounts, he’s also a terrific clubhouse guy.

Jayson Nix
Kind of a less-experienced version of Hall. Although Hall’s best offensive seasons have been better than Nix, Nix has reached double digit home runs twice and he does have big league experience at second, third, short and the outfield corners. He’s spent enough time in the Majors that the Yankees would probably feel comfortable bringing him to New York to fill a bench role at some point during the season (if he doesn’t opt out). He has to be considered a longshot to break camp with the team, but he can’t be ruled out for a big league role at some point.

Jorge Vazquez
Two numbers always standout with Vazquez: Home runs and strikeouts. In Triple-A last season, the slugging first baseman clubbed 32 homers but also struck out 166 times. He’s an all-or-nothing slugger who made a pretty firm impression in big league camp last spring. I guess he has to be considered an outside candidate for some DH at-bats, but the Yankees seem more eager to give those at-bats to a veteran (at least to start the season). Another impressive Triple-A stint could grab the Yankees attention, but there seem to be legitimate concerns about how well his minor league numbers — and incredible stats in Mexico — will translate at the big league level.

Outfielders

Colin Curtis
Take it easy this year, would ya, Colin? Last spring, Curtis hurt his shoulder making a diving catch in a Grapefruit League. Because he’s a good guy, Curtis liked to smile and call it a “sick catch,” but it cost him the season, and with no at-bats in 2011, he was taken off the 40-man roster this winter. Curtis is a left-handed hitter who does a lot of things well but not one thing extremely well. He has some speed and some power and can play all three outfield spots. He’s gotten some big league time with the Yankees, and the projected Triple-A outfield seems wide open for potential call-ups so Curtis is once again trying to catch the coaching staff’s attention.

Cole Garner
I’ve learned not to trust Pacific Coast League stats, so despite the fact that Garner put up terrific numbers with Colorado Springs the past two years, I’m hesitant to call him a terrific offensive player. The Rockies did give him a big league call-up last season, though, and the Yankees Triple-A outfield doesn’t seem to have a can’t-miss front runner for a potential call-up this season. Chris Dickerson is probably at the top of the pecking order right now, but Garner could be in the mix for a fourth or fifth outfielder spot at some point. He’s shown some power and some speed in the past. He’s an interesting option, especially if those PCL stats really do carry over.

Dewayne Wise
If you know him, chances are you know him for that catch in the Mark Buehrle game. For the Yankees, Wise is a lot like Gustavo Molina in that he has enough big league experience to make the Yankees feel comfortable putting him their outfield if someone gets hurt and a spot opens up. He’s a career .219/.256/.373 hitter in 445 big league games. He won’t hit much, but he can play the field and handle some of the little things, and that counts for something when it comes to guys like this.

 Associated Press photos of Higashioka, Nix and Curtis

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47 Responses to “Taking a look at the non-roster position players”

  1. GreenBeret7 February 26th, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I’ve thought that Murphy had a chance to be a Jim Leyritz type of player for a couple of years. Solid line drive/gap hitter that can hit a few homers out. For as long as Gil has been around, he’s still pretty young, decent defense and arm and some power. He just came in when there were a couple ahead of him in talent. Still, if the keep Martin, I’d like to see Romine fill that Leyritz role too. I’m a big fan of young players being versatile.

  2. Nick in SF February 26th, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    It’s more important that the Pakistani voices on the blog are heard, so I’m going to step aside, but thank you all.

  3. GreenBeret7 February 26th, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    The is the backdrop of left field of West End Field in Greenville, SC, home of the Red Sox and Greenville Drive. The 4 story building in the NY Insurance Company. I show you this because this building is where in one series in 2011, Gary Sanchez hit one homer off of the third story and two homer on top of the roof. The Kid has huge power.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F.....eDrive.jpg

  4. jacksquat February 26th, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    That seems like a bad place for windows.

  5. Nick in SF February 26th, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Congratulations to all the makers of Chickenball; The 2011 Red Sox!

  6. GreenBeret7 February 26th, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    That building is on the other side of the parking lot, at least 425, maybe 450 feet away.

  7. yanks61 February 27th, 2012 at 5:08 am

    Good Monday Morning, everyone.

    In case this hasn’t already been posted, the NYT Dan Barry has a great article, for old and young, about the days in the mid-late 60′s when rooting for the Yanks took real loyalty and love.

    A salutary relief from all the moaning and whining that sometimes goes on here by a lot of very, very spoiled fans. It’s also a fun look back at a post-Mantle team that had a cast of characters that came close to resembling Casey Stengel’s bumbling, stumbling, Amazing Mets.

    I hope most of you enjoy it. I know the old-timers will laugh at the memory of some of those woebegone players!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02.....=baseball#

  8. Villa Nova-Ya February 27th, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Nice essay, yanks61. Thanks.

  9. upstate kate February 27th, 2012 at 7:26 am

    yes, thanks Yanks61

    it is also easy to forget how many empty seats there were in the past

  10. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Yanks61-
    Thanks for attaching the NY Times article. Looking at the draught years, I uncovered the worst Yankee team since 1961, by winning %-.440[1966 Yankees]. It’s hard to believe it, when looking at the names of some of the players who were on that team. Stottlemyre a 20 game loser?

    http://www.baseball-reference......1966.shtml

  11. blake February 27th, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Couple of interesting lists I saw on mlbnetwork this weekend.

    Top 5 GMs
    1. Friedman
    2. Daniels
    3. Jockety
    4. Cashman
    5. Mozalak

    The Yanks were also ranked 5th at the DH position for 2012.

    Its to to rank GMs but I think those 5 are right around the top…..Id probably throw Towers name in there too.

    I certainly hope the Yanks get top 5 production from the DH spot…..and im sure they are considering that Arod is probably going to get some ABs there in that ranking…..but that means somebody else has to play 3B when he’s DHing so that kinda skews the actual value a bit.

  12. tomingeorgia February 27th, 2012 at 7:40 am

    September 22, 1966: Announced paid attendance – 413, four hundred thirteen. Red Barber got fired for noticing on TV.

  13. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I thought the Oscars, with Billy Crystall as host, were one of the best in recent memory. I’m not surprised that Moneyball, while an enjoyable film, did not come home with any trophies. Way overrated! Full list of winners:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/film.....st-winners

  14. upstate kate February 27th, 2012 at 7:45 am

    This made me chuckle. Bobby Valentine has banned alcohol in the club house. Meanwhile, Joe Maddon says that will not be the case for the Rays b/c “We are not the Red Sox”…keep those digs coming Joe :)

  15. dogface February 27th, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Stottlemyre a 20 game loser?

    ===========================

    Baseball can humble even the really good ones. In 1973, on the same Phillies team, Steve Carlton lost 20 games and Mike Schmidt hit .196

  16. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Tom-
    Paid attendance 413. Wow. Wonder how much a field level box seat was going for then?

    Blake-
    Are those GM ratings based solely on the trades/signings made this offseason?

  17. PacoDooley February 27th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 7:37 am
    Yanks61-
    Thanks for attaching the NY Times article. Looking at the draught years, I uncovered the worst Yankee team since 1961, by winning %-.440[1966 Yankees]. It’s hard to believe it, when looking at the names of some of the players who were on that team. Stottlemyre a 20 game loser?

    http://www.baseball-reference……1966.shtml

    ————————————————

    Wow, 36 HR for the M&M boys (only 13 from Maris). Also interesting to see how low the ERAs were on such a poor team. A team with a rotation and relief core with those ERAs would fair pretty well (but offences were not strong in that era, so it’s not a fair comparison).

  18. blake February 27th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    Trader,

    I don’t know….I think just in general

  19. PacoDooley February 27th, 2012 at 7:54 am

    from an earlier thread:
    Rich in NJ February 26th, 2012 at 4:56 pm
    Paco

    http://www.daylife.com/topic/N…..te=daylife
    0——————————————————-0

    Just wanted to say thanks to Rich for the link…

  20. tomingeorgia February 27th, 2012 at 7:55 am

    YT,
    I think they were probably paying folks to take them! If I recall, field level box seats were about $11.00.

  21. Benny Blanco February 27th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Blake,

    This article show have prefaced randy’s name as well. LOL

    http://www.nypost.com/p/sports.....kILo70gAtO

  22. Benny Blanco February 27th, 2012 at 7:57 am

    *should have

  23. dogface February 27th, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Also interesting to see how low the ERAs were on such a poor team

    ===================================

    League average ERA was 3.44 in 1966. Yankees came in at 3.41. They were actually right around league average in both scoring and pitching, but somehow finished 10 games under their pythagorean record that season. I guess their 15-38 record in 1 run games had something to do with that.

  24. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:05 am

    Benny-

    Thanks for attaching the article. There is no reason that Pineda shouldn’t be able to throw the CU effectively. In fact with those large hands, he should be able to throw the splitter, especially with Garcia and Kuroda as teammates.

  25. Villa Nova-Ya February 27th, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Benny -

    From the last paragraph of the article you linked to:

    Girardi: “I don’t make too much of it. My biggest concern is that they throw strikes and don’t hit people.’’

    Made me laugh. :)

  26. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Blake-

    I wonder where Billy Beane would have placed on that list of GMs if it was solely based on this offseasons dealings. No Oscars for Moneyball and doubt that the A’s will have any success with Mannyball!

  27. blake February 27th, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Benny,

    Nice article
    Trader,

    Mid pack at highest for me……Beane is and always has been highly overrated to me. Its not like he was the first or only guy doing the stuff he’s done…..maybe he brought it more mainstream but other guys have done it better than him and bottom line his teams have never won much of anything. Tampa has the same disadvantages….and worse

  28. yanks61 February 27th, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Villa Nova-ya, Upstate Kate, Yankee Trader, Paco Dooley, I’m glad you all enjoyed the NYT article as much as I did. The best thing one could say about those days was that it was darned easy to get good seats!

    I grew up with the 50′s and early 60′s Yankees as virtually perpetual champions and this was just so hard to endure. Every guy who looked great out of ST was going to be the next Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford. But there was no way I was going to give up on that team (though I did root for a while for the A’s, secondarily, when the Yanks dropped out of the running – unfortunately, usually pretty early in the year!)

    Paco Dooley, yeah, to think that a really great pitcher like Stott lost 20 games is mind boggling and testament to just how really bad that team was. He might have a HOF career with the current Yanks.

    Which, sorry, brings me back to how spoiled we are today. Even when we don’t agree with Mgmt. about trades, non-trades and the like (and like many of us, there have been those times for me as well), we should be really thankful that we have a team that tries very hard to stay competitive. I realize he’s a lightening rod (and is paid to be one), but I admire Cash even when I’m not on the same page; the toughest mgmt. job in sports and I don’t think there are many others in the game up to it. Just my two cents!

  29. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Blake-

    Beane traded away his young stable of starting pitching, the key to a small market teams success[Rays as you point out being a great example].

  30. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Yanks61-

    Thanks again for your post and linkage to the NY Times article. While not growing up in NY, I was a diehard Yankee fan, and the 1961 Yankees were one of the greatest teams to play the game. Johhny Blanchard-an unsung hero!

  31. tomingeorgia February 27th, 2012 at 8:28 am

    YT,
    I was wrong about the box seat price: It was $3.50. Bleachers were 50 cents.

  32. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Looks like Swisher has been working his tail off to have a good season and wants to stay with the Yankees. He’s even seeing a sports psychologist.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/spo.....-1.1029063

  33. blake February 27th, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Trader,

    Yea I don’t really get a lot of his moves…..I think he tends to do a lot of things just to do something and ends up spinning his wheels instead if actually building towards something…..and it keeps them in a perpetual state of mediocrity which is then blamed on their financial situation.

  34. Yankee Trader February 27th, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I was wrong about the box seat price: It was $3.50. Bleachers were 50 cents.
    ——————————–
    Tom-
    I won’t hold your “error” against you! I haven’t been to the new YS, but the noise level just isn’t the same and the unfilled box seats that are constantly in focus doesn’t help.

  35. dogface February 27th, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Beane traded away his young stable of starting pitching, the key to a small market teams success[Rays as you point out being a great example].

    ==============================================

    When you think about it, how different is what the Rays are doing now than what the A’s were doing 11-12 years ago. A’s were a disaster thru most of the 90′s and got a bunch of high picks. The result was high picks like Zito, Mulder, Chavez and even Ben Grieve, who was productive for them for a couple years before turning him into Johnny Damon and Mark Ellis. They hit with Giambi (2nd round pick) and Tejada. As a result they had a run of sustained success not yet matched by the Rays.

    We’ve spent all sorts of time talking about how the Rays have benefited from picking so high in the draft each year. A’s did the same thing. Let’s see if the Rays can make it go for 7 years, as the A’s did, and how easily they hang onto to players once the cost of doing so becomes prohibitve.

  36. Jack Florham February 27th, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Yanks 61…remember every single one of those names mentioned in the article and those not mentioned as well, like Thad Tillotson, Joe verbanic, Ross Moschitto, Jerry Kenney…….

  37. Tackelberry February 27th, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Yanks61 Great article. Sure brings back memories. Even though Yanks were terrible in those years, I still remember as a kid looking forward to every game, and rooting hard, even though they had no shot at the pennant in those years. Thats why whenever someone tries to imply that I’m a frontrunner when the Yanks win, I name all those players in the dark years that I watched and rooted for to prove them dead wrong

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