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


Off-day notes from the minor league complex

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Mar 19, 2012 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Spent part of my off-day afternoon over at the minor league complex where the Yankees lower level teams were playing the Blue Jays. The Triple-A and Double-A work groups were on the road in Dunedin.

The highlight of the day had to be a towering home run by quickly emerging prospect Tyler Austin, a converted catcher who hit .323/.402/.542 in Staten Island last year. And that’s only after he put up even bigger numbers for a few weeks in the Gulf Coast League.

Austin was a 13th-round pick in 2010, and he jumped to No. 20 on Baseball America’s ranking of the Top 30 Yankees prospects this winter. My old friend Patrick Teale over at Pinstripes Plus also has him in the Top 20. Although he spent all of last year playing first and third, the Yankees will have Austin playing right field in Charleston this season. Vice president of baseball operations, Mark Newman, said Austin has “major league average” speed, which lets him handle the outfield, and he picked out Austin as one of the early standouts in minor league camp.

“A name some folks don’t hear,” Newman said. “(But he) looks really good.”

A few other notes from across the street at the complex…

• Right now, Mason Williams is playing with the Tampa group. So is Gary Sanchez, and J.R. Murphy is playing with Trenton. Newman said those assignments will almost certainly change after all the minor league guys are sent out of big league camp. “Doesn’t mean anything,” Newman said. Murphy is likely ticketed for Tampa, both Williams and Sanchez are almost certainly headed for Charleston.

• Speaking of Charleston, Newman said the Yankees plan to have last year’s top pick, Dante Bichette, open this season with Charleston. He’ll essentially skip Staten Island after playing just a handful of games there last season. He hit .342/.446/.505 in the Gulf Coast League last year. That Charleston roster should be impressive with Bichette, Williams, Austin, Sanchez, Cito Culver and Angelo Gumbs (to name a few).

• Newman’s response when asked who stands out in minor league camp so far: “(Jose) Campos, the guy we got from Seattle, really looks good.” Newman also singled out three position players: Gumbs, Williams and Austin.

• Rob Segedin, a regular third baseman who played outfield in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, has been getting most of his time in right field, and he’s likely going to be the regular right fielder in Tampa when the season starts. “We’ve got to see if he can play outfield,” Newman said. “We haven’t seen him play there enough.” Looks like Ramon Flores will be the other corner outfielder Tampa.

• Ravel Santana, who popped into Baseball America’s Top 10 Yankees prospects this winter, has comeback quicker than expected from a fairly severe ankle injury. He’ll be with Staten Island this year. “He’s going to be ready close to the start of the season,” Newman said. “He came back unbelievably fast.”

• One more Newman comment on Santana: “He can hit. He can run. He can throw. He’s got power. He’s got some plate discipline.” Oh, is that all?

• The Yankees other elite center field prospect is Slade Heathcott who’s out with a shoulder injury. I know there was an earlier report that Heathcott would be ready in May, but Newman said today he’s not expected back until June. Either way, he’s not going to be ready to open the season.

• I was a little surprised to see Greg Bird, last year’s fifth-round pick, starting at catcher today. I thought the Yankees were planning to put Bird at an infield corner, but Newman said they’re going to keep him behind the plate for the time being. He’ll open in extended spring training. “We’ve got to see if he can (catch),” Newman said. “He can hit – we really like the bat – whether or not he’s a catcher, we’ll find out over time. But he’s working at it, and so far he’s done well. Right now he’s going to catch. We’ve got to commit to that.”

• Lefty Jeremy Bleich was a supplemental-round pick in 2008 but he missed most of 2010 and all of 2011 with a shoulder injury. It’s taken a long time to fully recover, but Bleich is throwing bullpens at the moment.

Today’s starting lineups for the minor league teams
Remember, these assignments are subject to change before the season opens

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Austin Krum CF
Corban Joseph 2B
Melky Mesa DH
Dan Brewer RF
Kevin Russo 3B
Addison Maruszak 1B
Ray Kruml DH
Yadil Mujica SS
Deangelo Mack LF
Ryan Baker C

Trenton
Abe Almonte CF
Ronnier Mustelier 3B
J.R. Murphy C
Zoilo Almonte RF
Rob Lyerly 1B
Kyle Higashioka DH
Cody Johnson DH
Jose Pirela SS
Exicardo Cayones LF
Jose Rosario 2B

Tampa
Mason Williams CF
Carmen Angelini SS
Rob Segedin RF
Gary Sanchez C
Kyle Roller DH
Zach Wilson DH
Fu-lin Kuo 1B
Kelvin Castro 2B
Justin James LF
Jose Mojica 3B

Charleston
Cito Culver SS
Anderson Feliz 2B
Greg Bird C
Reymond Nunez 1B
Tyler Austin RF
Ben Gamel LF
Matt Duran 3B
Cody Grice CF
Kelvin DeLeon DH
Jake Cave DH

* Yes, it’s commond for minor league spring training lineups to have two DHs

** Some names you don’t see here — Dante Bichette, Angelo Gumbs, Daniel Lopez, Ramon Flores, Eduardo Sosa, Luke Murton, etc. — either played half days off the bench or weren’t scheduled to be in games today.

*** In some cases, extremely low-level players are currently playing at a much, much higher level than where they’ll open the season. That’s just because so many guys are still in big league camp. Jose Rosario jumps out at me as one example. I doubt he’ll open above Staten Island, but right now he’s getting some at-bats with Trenton just to fill a hole and get playing time.

**** Craig Heyer started for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; Brett Marshall, Graham Stoneburner and Mark Montgomery pitched for Trenton; Matt Tracy and Tom Kahnle were among the Tampa pitchers and Bryan Mitchell had the start for Charleston.

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