It had been previously reported, but yesterday it becamse official that the Yankees will send three of the organization’s more intriguing prospects to the Arizona Fall League. Four Yankees pitchers will be assigned at some point, but those four are not official just yet.
For now, it’s these three — a catcher, an infielder and an outfielder — and while they’re not necessarily the biggest names in the minor league system, each one is a legitimate prospect with potential to make a real impact in New York. It’s a group worth following, for sure. All three are going to Arizona to get more at-bats after missing time because of injuries.
23 years old
Right now: Romine has played fewer than 30 games this season because of a lingering back issue that wiped out any slim chance of making the Yankees big league roster out of spring training. Recently he’s started to hit a little bit more, and if he’s not a September call-up, he’ll likely hanlde hte bulk of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s catching through the International League playoffs.
Next year: This was essentially a lost year for Romine. If nothing else, the Yankees were counting on him to provide catching depth, and when he couldn’t do that, they felt the need to trade for Chris Stewart and option Francisco Cervelli to be their minor league insurance. He has fewer than 100 Triple-A at-bats, so a return ot Scranton/Wilkes-Barre wouldn’t be the worst thing, but he could prove he’s ready for a big league role.
Big picture: Gary Sanchez is the Yankees top catching prospect, but he’s at least a year or two away from the big leagues. Romine is the most advanced catcher in the system, his brief call-up last season was enough to show how much the Yankees respect him defensively. His bat could determine whether he’s a big league regular or a younger version of Cervelli.
Second baseman / Third baseman
25 years old
Right now: An ankle injury suffered in 2010 took two years to fully heal. Adams played a little bit last season, and he was healthy enough to get some work in spring training, but he didn’t get regular Double-A at-bats until May. Once healthy, Adams’ numbers got better and better throughout the season, and now he’s hitting for average and power while drawing a good number of walks in Trenton.
Next year: Primarily a second baseman when the year started, Adams shifted to third base at the end of July, and he’s played there ever since. That might have been a response to the Rodriguez injury, might have been a response to Corban Joseph’s second-base production in Triple-A, and might have been an attempt to put Adams in a position where he’s best suited. He could be ready for some sort of utility role out of spring training. If not, he could certainly be Triple-A insurance if Rodriguez gets hurt again.
Big picture: Adams has always shown a good bat for a second baseman, but is it enough bat for a third baseman? Is he versatile enough for a utility role? The Yankees basically lost two years of development with Adams, and they’re just now figuring out a little more about him. The numbers are impressive, he just needs to play, and that’s exactly why he’s going to Arizona.
21 years old
Right now: Two shoulder surgeries have slowed the progress of the former first-round pick, and he didn’t get out of extended spring training until late June. But he’s shown his potential this month. Even after a hitless doubleheader on Tuesday, Heathcott was hitting .364/.430/.519 with 10 stolen bases this month. He has a legitimate bat, great speed and a good glove, but the Yankees have given him a lot of DH days this season to keep him healthy.
Next year: Heathcott has never played more than 76 games or gotten more than 300 at-bats in a season. He needs playing time — hence the Fall League — and the first step toward making next year a success is staying on the field. Double-A wouldn’t seem to be out of the question. He’s a legitimate center fielder, so there’s little reason to move him to a corner unless the Yankees see an opening there.
Big picture: Mason Williams has to be considered the Yankees top center field prospect, but as long as he’s healthy, Heathcott deserves a spot in that discussion. He can really run, and he’s shown the ability to drive the ball as well. Despite the injury recovery, this season has been encouraging for Heathcott, who’s showing why he was a first-round pick to begin with. He needs to play some more for the Yankees to figure out just how good he can be.
The Yankees participants will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions along with members of the Angles, Giants, Indians and Pirates organizations. The team will be managed by Carlos Mendoza, who currently manages the Yankees Low-A team in Charleston.
The Fall League season opens on October 9.
FALL LEAGUE ELIGIBILITY RULES
• Each major-league organization is required to provide seven players.
• All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than August 15.
• Each organization is permitted to send two Class A Advanced-level players in addition to the current allowance of two “A-exempt” players (who are under contract as of August 15). Foreign players are allowed as long as the player is not on his native country’s primary protected player list.
• No players with more than one year active or two years total of credited major-league service as of August 31 (including major league disabled list time) are eligible, except a team may select one player picked in the most recently concluded Major League Rule 5 Draft.
• Each Fall League team is allotted 20 pitchers but only 15 are designated “eligible” each game day.