Ranked as a sort of All-Yankees Rookie of the Year ballot, here are the five up-from-the-minors guys who played the most significant roles this season.
1. Adam Warren
3-2, 3.39 ERA, 77 IP
By the end of the year, Warren stood out as the Yankees top rookie. The only Yankees who threw more innings than Warren were the team’s five regular starters, and Warren really seemed to make the most of those chances. He didn’t get many spot start opportunities — that’s what made David Phelps stand out the year before — but he did handle several roles, including a handful of late-inning chances when the bullpen was thin and someone had to step up.
Next year: Could be a legitimate rotation option out of spring training. At the very least, he’s a strong candidate for a return to long relief. If Warren is still behind Phelps in the Yankees pecking order, it’s not by much.
2. Austin Romine
An undeniable disappointment early in the year, Romine’s overall slash line paints a pretty telling picture of his overall production. He wasn’t very good through much of the year, and even his defense seemed lacking at several points. What brought some redemption, though, was Romine’s hitting in the second half. After making an adjustment, he hit .341/.423/.500 from July 25 through September 2, earning more playing time as Chris Stewart struggled.
Next year: This season did nothing to help Romine make a case for being the Yankees catcher of the future, but his strong second half just might have been enough to give him a reach chance to win at least a backup job out of spring training. There are still significant questions, but Romine might not be out of opportunities.
3. Preston Claiborne
0-2, 4.11 ERA, 50.1 IP
Kind of the opposite of Romine’s season. Claiborne showed up as a sort of surprise. Largely overshadowed by other minor league pitchers, it was Claiborne who came up to replace Joba Chamberlain in May. He didn’t walk anyone in his first 14 appearances and became a legitimately trusted middle reliever. In his final 23 games, though, Claiborne had a 6.66 ERA and an opponents slash line of .305/.365/.524.
Next year: With several holes in the Yankees bullpen, Claiborne has a legitimate chance to win a job. But that strong first impression wasn’t enough to necessarily consider him a favorite for a 2014 roster spot. The Yankees have a handful of relatively similar young pitchers, and Claiborne is going to have to pitch well to get another chance.
4. Zoilo Almonte
A theme for each of the last three guys on this list: Almonte was terrific when he showed up, then he faded into irrelevance. In his first 15 games, Almonte hit .314/.345/.451 and became a regular in left field. In his final 19 games, he hit .164/.207/.164 and wound up on the disabled list with a severe ankle sprain. Holding true to his minor league tendencies, Almonte was much better against righties than against lefties.
Next year: For the time being, Almonte seems to be the young alternative to Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells in right field. Thing is, though, the Yankees seem likely to sign an outfield, which could push Almonte back to Triple-A. He’s shown a pretty good bat in the minors, but scouts have never seemed sold on him, and even though he’s a switch hitter, he might be best suited for a platoon or bench role.
5. David Adams
Of all the guys on this list, the best opportunity probably belonged to Adams. His year got off to a rough start — he was released and ultimately re-signed because of a roster crunch — but when he was called up from Triple-A, the Yankees were fully prepared to give him everyday at-bats at third base. He hit .295/.311/.500 in his first 11 games, but just .146/.226/.188 after that. He ultimately bounced back and forth from the minors.
Next year: After his 2013 struggles, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees heading into 2014 with plans of using Adams in any sort of significant role. That said, he plays second base and third base, two spots with a great deal of uncertainty at the moment. He’s going to have to prove he’s better than he was 2013, but the Yankees infield situation certainly leaves room for second chances.
Associated Press photo