Not sure winter stats factor into big league decisions, but if they do, Francisco Cervelli is making already making his case for regular playing time.
Down in Venezuela, Cervelli is hitting .325/.462/.550 through 40 at-bats with Navegantes del Magallanes. Cervelli is one of five catchers on the roster, and each of those catchers has at least a little bit of big league experience. Cervelli didn’t join the group until November, when the season was roughly a month old, but he’s been playing fairly regularly lately.
If the Yankees can’t find a more proven alternative behind the plate, Cervelli could come to spring training in a legitimate competition with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine for the Yankees starting job. Still a lot of time for that to change, though. Romine’s numbers weren’t especially good in the Arizona Fall League, but the Yankees seem happy with his performance down there.
• Eduardo Nunez is back in the Dominican Winter League. He played his first game on December 1, and he’s had a hit in each of his games since then (only four games, but still). Nunez went 3-for-4 on Wednesday to push his very, very early slash line to .375/.375/.438 with a stolen base and three RBI. He’s played shortstop all four games and has hit cleanup or fifth in the order.
• One of the long-shot, in-house options at third base is Ronnier Mustelier who has a .285/.340/.438 slash line in Mexico this winter. Not sure why but he hasn’t played in a little more than week. That said, he’s already gotten 144 at-bats down there. Most of his time this winter has come at third base, with a handful of games in the outfield corners.
• Three young outfielders on the 40-man roster — Melky Mesa, Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores — are each on winter league roster, but none has seen significant playing time. Of the three, Flores is the only one who’s played since the end of October, and that was one game off the bench in mid-November. That’s not at all unusual for young guys like that. It’s not like the Fall League where major league organizations have significant say in a player’s playing time.
• Injured for much of last season, second base prospect Angelo Gumbs is back on the field in Puerto Rico. He’s gotten into five games since late November. He’s had only 10 at-bats, but in that time he has three hits including a double and a home run. Yankees Triple-A manager Dave Miley is Gumbs’ manager in Puerto Rico.
• Utility man Jose Pirela, trying to build on a strong Double-A season, got off to a strong start in Venezuela but has since gone cold. His slash line is down to .236/.333/.318. In mid-November it was .307/.403/.426.
• Added to the 40-man this offseason, left-handed reliever Francisco Rondon has a 1.69 ERA in the Dominican, but that hides his .318 opponents’ batting average Rondon has faced 12 lefties and struck out half of them. Of the other half, though, four got hits including a double and a home run for a .667 slugging percentage against left-handed batters.
• Another 40-man addition, young right-hander Jose Ramirez got his first winter start on Wednesday and delivered four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, no walks and one hit. He was facing a lineup that included guys like Felix Pie and Brad Snyder who have a little bit of big league experience and a lot of Triple-A experience. That’s not bad competition considering Ramirez has never pitched above High-A.
• From the not-sure-what-to-make-of-him file, lefty Vidal Nuno is building off his ridiculously good Double-A season by pitching to a 2.11 ERA in Venezuela this winter. Hard to consider him a legitimate prospect, but he’s pitched well for a few months now.
• Speaking of non-prospect lefties, reliever Juan Cedeno was left unprotected and unselected in yesterday’s Rule 5 draft. He could certainly get another non-roster invitation to big league camp next year, and right now he has a 3.24 ERA in the Dominican. But much like Rondon, the solid ERA hides the fact he’s walked quite a few guys and has let lefties reach base nearly 43 percent of the time.
• One of several fringy relief prospects in the Yankees system, Preston Claiborne was dealing in Puerto Rico, but he’s allowed multiple runs his past two times out. Opponents are still hitting just .167 against him this winter. He had just one walk in his first eight innings down there.
Associated Press photo of Cervelli