Around the All-Star break, the Yankees made a series of lower-level minor league promotions involving some of the top young players in the system. Last night, it was the upper levels that saw a shakeup, with some organizational veterans on the move.
Toolsy center field prospect Melky Mesa was promoted to Triple-A following a strong past two months in Trenton. Often an all-or-nothing hitter with good power, good speed and a lot of strikeouts, Mesa hit .273/.374/.455 in June, and followed it with a .324/.366/.524 slash line in July. He’s kind of a wild card as a prospect — I talked to a scout recently who thought he’d never make enough contact to play in the big leagues — but he does a lot of things really well, and every once in a while he shows some real promise.
He’ll fill a spot in the recently vacated Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfield, which released Jack Cust, Colin Curtis and Ray Kruml in a swooping purge last night.
Curtis and Kruml weren’t playing much anyway — both had been on the DL for a while, and I’m guessing those might have been phantom DL situations — and although Cust had been productive (.249/.400/.475), the big league roster is already loaded with left-handed outfield/DH options. Of the three, Curtis was the only one to ever see any time in New York, having been called up briefly in 2010.
Mesa will surely become an outfield regular in Triple-A, where manager Dave Miley already rotates a versatile group that includes Chris Dickerson, Kosuke Fukudome, Ronnier Mustelier and Darnell McDonald. Cust had been the team’s regular DH, so that spot is now wide open for someone to get at-bats.
To fill Mesa’s spot in Double-A, Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia has been promoted from Tampa to Trenton. Garcia was hitting just .238/.300/.356, but he’s already 27 years old — the Yankees just signed him earlier this year — and he’d been hitting lately, including six multi-hit games in his past 14.
A few other late-morning minor league notes…
• It will be interesting to see how the Yankees use Ramiro Pena now that he and Eduardo Nunez are both on the Triple-A roster. Nunez has played nothing but shortstop since he came off the minor league disabled list, Corban Joseph has been very good as the everyday second baseman, and Kevin Russo has been one of the team’s most consistent hitters at third base (where Mustelier might have to get some regular playing time now that the outfield is so crowded). Could be that Pena is going from the big leagues to the minor league bench. That doesn’t happen very often.
• Speaking of the Triple-A infield, if you were ready to write off Brandon Laird earlier this season, hold off. He just hit .308/.362/.606 with eight home runs in the month of July. Up to that point, he had slugged well below .400 with a sub-.250 batting average. He’s got about a month left to prove he still deserves that spot on the 40-man.
• Interesting to note that, since the Alex Rodriguez injury, David Adams has been getting most of his playing time at third base. Adams is down in Double-A, but he can hit, and he has a spot on the 40-man. He played second base the day after Rodriguez was hurt, but he hasn’t played second base since then, getting all of his time at third base and DH. He hadn’t played a single game at third base this season before Rodriguez went down. Could be that the two are unrelated — could be a reaction to Joseph playing so well at second base up in Triple-A, could be a relatively random decision to start giving Adams more reps at the corner – but it’s certainly interesting.
• Remember that Double-A game Joba Chamberlain was supposed to pitch in on Tuesday? Well, Chamberlain wasn’t there, but Brett Marshall was. The sinkerballer allowed one run on four hits through six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.83. He went 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in July.
• Remember High-A reliever Mark Montgomery? The guy who was getting all the strikeouts and seemed overdue for a promotion? The promotion finally came about two weeks ago. Through his first five Double-A appearances, Montgomery has allowed one hit, walked none and struck out 13 batters through eight innings.
• The three top prospects who were promoted from Charleston to Tampa last month — Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez and Tyler Austin — are at the very least holding their own at that level, but the real High-A standout has been Ramon Flores. The team’s regular left fielder is now hitting .306/.371/.417 and has had an on-base percentage above .400 the past two months.
• Speaking of the High-A outfield, Slade Heathcott has started seeing less time at DH and more time in the field. Coming back from shoulder surgery, Heathcott is also starting to swing the bat lately. In his past 13 games he’s raised his batting average from .200 to .273. He’s had a hit in all but two of those games, and he’s had multiple hits in five of them. He homered yesterday.
• Down in Low-A, Dante Bichette and Cito Culver are still struggling at the plate, but outfielder Ben Gamel is emerging a little bit. He’s hit .336/.359/.450 since the middle of June.
• First-round pick Ty Hensley made his professional debut on Monday in the Gulf Coast League. He pitched two innings, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out one.
Headshots of Mesa, Pena, Marshall and Heathcott