A few smaller minor league notes, just to clear out what I have from yesterday’s conversation with Mark Newman…
• It was interesting to hear Newman talk about Austin Romine. I’ve heard people in the organization speak highly of Romine’s defense, but Newman was raving. “He’s a plus, plus defender,” Newman said. “He can really play the position.” Despite so-so offensive numbers, the Yankees seem happy with the way Romine swung the bat this year in the Fall League, and Newman was especially impressed with the receiving skills he showed. Newman never said this, but I left the conversation thinking Romine’s chances of making the big league roster are better than I originally thought. I’ve always assumed that the Yankees have more immediate faith in the defense of Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, but I might be wrong.
• The Yankees have added a second Gulf Coast League team, meaning they’ll have two full GCL rosters next season. You don’t have to dig deep to find the reason for the addition. “We’re able to sign more players, (and) we’re able to keep the players we have longer,” Newman said. “That’s the secret. The secret is obvious.”
• Tyler Austin got to Double-A in late 2012, but the Yankees aren’t sure he’ll open there in 2013. With just 36 High-A games to his credit, Austin could go back to Tampa at least to open the year. Newman said Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are definitely ticketed for the Double-A outfield.
• Speaking of the Double-A roster, hard-throwing right-hander Jose Ramirez will be with Trenton to open the season, but despite his big fastball, strong second half and spot on the 40-man roster, Newman said he doesn’t expect Ramirez to suddenly fly through the system. “I wouldn’t project him as moving super fast,” Newman said. “He’ll tell us (based on how he’s doing) when he’s ready to move, but I would expect him to have a full season in Double-A.”
• Another 40-man addition — probably the least recognizable of names protected from the Rule 5 this winter — is left-handed reliever Francisco Rondon. I knew next to nothing about him, so I asked. “He’s got high-caliber stuff,” Newman said. “He’s got to continue to improve his command.” Rondon’s high strikeout rate and high walk rate pretty much tell the story. Newman said his fastball can get to 93-95 mph and touch 96-97. He also has a good slider and could be more than a left-on-left specialist. “He’s got power (and) hhe can spin the ball,” Newman said. “It’s just a matter of command. He’s got really good stuff.”
• When Baseball America picked Rafael DePaula as the Yankees 10th-best prospect this winter, BA noted that DePaula was expected to jump all the way to High-A Tampa next season. Newman said that’s not really the case. DePaula is expected to finally pitch in the U.S., but jumping to Tampa seems too aggressive. “I think that’s rich,” Newman said. “There’s a chance he could pitch in Charleston.”
• Might be worth putting the name Vidal Nuno on the edges of your prospect radar. Plucked out of independent ball in 2011, the 25-year-old lefty was outstanding in Double-A last season (2.45 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) and he has a 1.99 ERA in Venezuela this winter. Nuno doesn’t throw hard, but he does everything else. “He’s left-handed and he can spin the ball and he throws a lot of strikes,” Newman said. “He’s got a chance to become a factor. He’s pushed himself into consideration, at the very least as a reliever.”
Associated Press photo