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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Early surprises on the Yankees roster

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Apr 28, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

The Yankees used a franchise-record 56 players last season, and they’re well on their way to a similar number this season having already put 35 different players on the roster (with 33 getting in a game). Each offseason, we naturally spend a lot of time speculating about who might make the team and who might play a role, but here are 10 guys who have already been on the Yankees big league roster this season and might have been pretty tough to predict just two months ago. Some are more surprising than others, but for one reason or another, each of these 10 certainly had a good chance of getting through at least the first month without getting any time in the big leagues. They’ve all made it to the Yankees in one way or another.

Dean Anna, Derek JeterDean Anna
Amazingly, Anna wasn’t the biggest surprise on the Yankees Opening Day roster. Even so, he’s a guy who was never so much as invited to big league camp during his minor league career with the Padres. The Yankees made a minor trade for him this winter, put him on their 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and wound up carrying him out of camp when Brendan Ryan opened on the disabled list. Having a 40-man spot meant Anna came into camp with at least some chance to make the team, but considering the presence of Ryan and Eduardo Nunez, his chances of actually making the team seemed fairly slim. His best bet was a Ryan injury opening a need for a shortstop, and that’s exactly what happened.

Yangervis Solarte
The surprise of spring training. Almost any other season Anna would be the biggest surprise on the Opening Day roster, but instead it was Solarte who stood out as the Yankees broke camp. Not only was he largely unknown heading into spring training, but he seemed to be blocked by Nunez, a familiar face who appeared to be the clear favorite for a utility/platoon roster spot. Solarte won the job in spring training, and after 2,539 minor league at-bats, finally made his big league debut. He’s kept hitting while seeing his role expand.

Shane Greene
A year ago, Greene was pretty easily overshadowed by other young pitchers in the Yankees minor league system. The team seemed to like his stuff, but Greene walked too many guys and had a 5.22 High-A ERA in 2012. By cutting down on the walks in 2013, Greene landed a spot on the 40-man roster. By pitching well this spring, he landed squarely on the radar. And he got his first big league call-up just nine days into the season despite having never pitched in Triple-A (and having pitched just a half season in Double-A). He’s now been called up three times this season, but he’s pitched a total of one-third of an inning in the majors (and only 2.2 innings in the minors). Weird and definitely unexpected first month for Greene.

Scott Sizemore
Can’t say it’s stunning that Sizemore got a call-up. He came into big league camp with major-league experience and an ability to play both second and third — two positions where the Yankees have been mixing-and-matching — so he seemed like a potential fit from the very beginning. But let’s remember the fact that this guy tore his ACL each of the past two years. It was hardly an automatic that he’d ever play in the big leagues again, much less for the Yankees in the first month of the season. Now Sizemore is on the 40-man, optioned back to Triple-A and waiting for another opening in New York. There’s a non-zero chance that he’ll be back.

John Ryan MurphyJohn Ryan Murphy
It’s not that anyone should be stunned to see Murphy in the big leagues. He came into this season having very clearly climbed to the top of the minor league depth chart at catcher — in terms of being on the verge of the big leagues — but there might be some surprise that Murphy is already the fourth catcher the Yankees have carried this season. They opened with Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli, very briefly added Austin Romine as a third catcher when Mark Teixiera was hurt, and now they’ve brought up Murphy to replace Cervelli, who’s hurt. Four weeks into the season, already four catchers on the roster.

Matt Daley
I would argue that Daley is the least surprising of this group. He spent parts of three seasons with the Rockies before getting hurt and landing with the Yankees, who stayed patient as he rehabbed and got himself back into minor league games. Then he got a September call-up last season and pitched well in limited opportunities. He signed back this offseason and made a strong case for the big league roster in spring training. Even so, he started the season as just one of many viable options on that Triple-A pitching staff, and he had no spot on the 40-man roster. Even when he finally did get a chance, Daley’s call-up lasted one day. He took one for the team that game and was sent back to Triple-A the next day.

Preston ClaibornePreston Claiborne
Middle of last season, Claiborne seemed like a natural for this year’s team. Even heading into spring training, he seemed to have a strong chance of breaking camp in the big leagues. But Claiborne pitched so poorly in spring training — he’d also struggled in the second half of last season — that he seemed like more of a DFA candidate than a call-up candidate. But the Yankees had a short-term need and gave Claiborne another chance, which he made the most of by delivering two scoreless frames in extra innings against the Rays. He’s now allowed one run through four innings, and he just got his second call-up of the young season.

Bryan Mitchell
It was a one-day call-up, and he never got in a game, but it would have been pretty hard to predict that a pitching shortage and the quirks of the 40-man roster would have led the Yankees to bring up a 23-year-old who’d hardly pitched above A ball. Even now Mitchell has just four Double-A starts this season — he made three last year — with a 4.26 ERA. The lesson, as always: It’s good to be on the 40-man, and it’s good to be available for multiple innings. Mitchell was warming up in that extra-inning game against the Rays, but so far that’s as close as he’s come to a big league debut.

Bruce Billings
There were a lot of minor league veteran pitchers who stood out this spring, but Billings really wasn’t one of them. It’s not that he pitched poorly — he had a 3.24 spring ERA — but he was on his way to being stretched out as a Triple-A starter, and the guys who seemed to really grab the team’s attention were the Triple-A relievers. However, when the Yankees needed a new long man, it was Billings who got the call-up ahead of Alfredo Aceves (who pitched well for the Yankees in the past) and Chase Whitley (who pitched well in Scranton the past two years). Before making his one appearance of the season, Billings had not pitched in the major leagues since getting seven innings in 2011.

Chris Leroux
Unlike Billings, Leroux was one of those spring training standouts. He had no walks and a 0.66 WHIP through 13.1 spring innings, then the Yankees sent him to extended spring to be stretched out as a Triple-A starter. He made two Triple-A starts, lost both of them, and got a call-up. Clearly the Yankees liked what they saw in spring training. What actually makes Leroux a surprise call-up isn’t the fact he lost those two starts for Scranton, it’s the fact that one year ago he’d been designated for assignment by the Pirates and elected to pitch in Japan, where he ultimately had a 9.00 ERA before adjusting his approach in winter ball (more two-seam fastballs, getting away from his hard four-seamer). In a year he’s gone from a DFA pitcher struggling in Japan to being the latest Yankees attempt to find a new long man.

Associated Press photos





29 Responses to “Early surprises on the Yankees roster”

  1. bigdan22 April 28th, 2014 at 2:49 pm


    “So if a Tanaka type talent came along at 1B, a talent that was a guaranteed 50 HR guy, we pass in deference to tex?”


    Yes. The Yanks, under Hal, are much more process oriented than under George. Consider the 200 inning announcement early in the off season. That was a very specific articulation of a need and a goal. Tanaka was a product of that. Had it not been Tanaka it would have been another free agent.

    When Hal and his team look at the roster, they don’t even see 1b or 3b when it comes to acquisitions. It’s not on their radar at all. They have money invested there already so it is not considered a need even to be discussed. They probably didn’t look twice at Abreu.

  2. bigdan22 April 28th, 2014 at 2:50 pm


    They Yanks look at their budget is way that’s similar to the New England Patriots. The Patriots don’t just keep an eye on the cap. They have, in the their own mind, how much they will spend on a QB. On a safety. And they choose not to go over that amount even if there is cap room (Revis might be an exception though).

    The Yanks have internal limits on what they intend to spend on certain positions. That may change a bit year to year, but they have functionally hit their own cap on 1b and 3b

  3. CompassRosy April 28th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Russell Munson April 28th, 2014 at 2:42 pm
    Abe Almonte is hitting .204/.250/.306 and has struck out in more than one-third of his plate appearances. He’s not one that got away.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Not to mention, his lack of mad OF skills.
    But, for some reason, Mac seems to love him . . .

  4. Jerkface April 28th, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I don’t think I commented on Tanaka much after the game because I basically went right to Game of Thrones but damn I love Tanaka. The Angels game had all the hallmarks of a blow out or bad loss early, with Tanaka clearly not finding the strike zone with his 2seamer and throwing a lot of pitches. That he ended up getting into the 7th with 11 K’s and only 2 ER is pretty cool.

    I like that he doesn’t put that many guys on base and even when he does he really focuses up.

    I would like him to stop leaving 2-seamers up in the zone. That is his most problematic pitch so far and its his fourth best. Still, can’t be displeased with anything he has shown to this point.

  5. bigdan22 April 28th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    This is a radical change from the “Dynasty” years under George and does not dictate further dynasties.
    It is subject to too many variables such as injuries and a lack of depth by hiring too many stars and not enough complimentary players like Pinella and ONeill


    Perhaps, but in the end the only real model that works is developing your own talent and supplementing that with free agents. That was the true driver of late-90s teams.

    I do agree with many on here though that the Yanks should play and play heavily in the Cuban market. Of course they need to be strategic about it but it’s obvious talent is there and the Yanks, to their detriment, have missed out on most of it.

  6. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Russell Munson April 28th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Abe Almonte is hitting .204/.250/.306 and has struck out in more than one-third of his plate appearances. He’s not one that got away.

    Yeah, but when you compare him to the player the Yankees kept instead – Melky Mesa, one is a marginally useful major leaguer and the other is Melky Mesa.

  7. Russell Munson April 28th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    How about you compare Almonte to the guy the Yankees got for him? Do we know if Seattle would have taken Mesa instead for Kelley?

  8. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    There’s a Korean 3b who is likely to join the FA ranks this winter. He’s 27 and considered a five-tool player and enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013.

    Choi has hit .300 and posted an OPS over .900 each of the past four seasons playing for SK Wyverns while averaging more than 23 home runs. Last season, he slashed .316/.429/.551 and belted 28 home runs, putting him amongst the offensive elite in the KBO. Choi also demonstrated his speed, swiping 24 bases.

    This is a player who would fit with what the Yankees need (with Soriano likely leaving Alex can be the full time DH), and unlike the Pablo Sandoval’s and Chase Headley’s he wouldn’t cost the Yankees a draft pick. With all that being the case – if he’s available I would hope that the Yankees would pursue him.

  9. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Russell Munson April 28th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    How about you compare Almonte to the guy the Yankees got for him? Do we know if Seattle would have taken Mesa instead for Kelley?

    Probably – Kelley was a middle reliever and the Mariners didn’t want to pay him his first arbitration money.

  10. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    From MLBTradeRumors John Ryan Murphy has drawn the attention of several opposing scouts and the young catcher could become a sought-after trade chip for the Yankees, John Harper of the New York Daily News reports. “Some team might see him as a guy who could start for them,’’ one scout told Harper. “He’s solid with the bat and behind the plate.’’

  11. Chad Jennings April 28th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Chip April 28th, 2014 at 3:41 pm e

    Russell Munson April 28th, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    How about you compare Almonte to the guy the Yankees got for him? Do we know if Seattle would have taken Mesa instead for Kelley?

    Probably – Kelley was a middle reliever and the Mariners didn’t want to pay him his first arbitration money.

    Just to point it out: The Mariners had DFA Kelley, so I assume they had some sort of 40-man issue they were dealing with, and Mesa was on the 40. Probably wouldn’t have worked in that trade. And honestly, I don’t think Mesa and Almonte are all that different as players. Both toolsy speed and defense guys. Almonte’s a switch hitter, but I think you’d probably get fairly similar production out of either one.

  12. mick April 28th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    David Waldstein @DavidWaldstein

    Robbie Cano is going to be on the Tonight Show this evening. Don’t really envision that as a must see.
    Personality is everything.

  13. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Chad –

    Didn’t know about the 40 man roster issues.

    I think the major difference between Almonte and Mesa is that Mesa couldn’t make contact (averaging 138 K over 5 years from 09 – 13) with terrible on-base numbers.
    Almonte on the other hand had shown improvement as he moved up the levels, cut down on his k rate, improved his OBP culminating last year with a showing in the minors (granted PCL is a hitter’s league no matter what Jesus Montero says)

  14. luis April 28th, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Have you guys seen Blake lately?… I haven’t seen him in ac ouple of days..Hopefully he is alright

  15. luis April 28th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I wouldn’t trade Murphy right now, unless the package is too enticing..Like a Big League ready infielder with potential and probably a little more as well

  16. bbb51 April 28th, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    You’ll have to excuse me if I’m not impressed by Montero’s minor league stats.

    1 Nick Franklin# 23 13 59 51 10 20 5 0 4 13 2 2 8 11 .392 .475 .725 1.200 37 2 0 0 0 1
    2 Cole Gillespie 30 16 68 58 14 21 5 1 5 14 2 0 9 9 .362 .456 .741 1.197 43 0 1 0 0 0
    3 Ji-Man Choi* 23 10 40 33 7 13 2 0 1 5 0 0 7 6 .394 .500 .545 1.045 18 2 0 0 0 0
    4 Jesus Montero 24 17 73 66 12 21 3 1 6 18 0 0 4 17 .318 .356 .667 1.023 44 3 1 0 2 0
    5 Chris Taylor 23 21 95 85 15 32 9 2 2 13 4 1 6 14 .376 .411 .600 1.011 51 2 1 0 3 0
    6 Gabriel Noriega 23 10 34 34 6 15 4 0 0 2 1 0 0 5 .441 .441 .559 1.000 19 1 0 0 0 0

    Only Gillespie is older.

  17. Reunion April 28th, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Chad Jennings

    Is anything going to be done to put an end to the trolling and shenanigans that occur every day on this blog?

  18. bbb51 April 28th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Those are only guys on the same team…

  19. luis April 28th, 2014 at 4:42 pm


    Is that league very offensive oriented?..Those numbers are mind boggling

  20. bbb51 April 28th, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    luis, the PCL is a very offense oriented league due to the parks/environment.

  21. luis April 28th, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    So those numbers should be read with a grain of salt… What should be the expected production of those players when you discount the park/environment factor? 80%, 70% of that production or even less?

  22. bbb51 April 28th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Well currently Montero is 20th for OPS in the PCL. That’s not bad, but considering how his own teammates are doing I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s insane to not bring him back up right now.

  23. hardwired7 April 28th, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Tanaka’s WAR is already at 1.3. The dude is a stud.

  24. Chip April 28th, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Blake –

    Once Cervelli comes back, Murphy to the Diamondbacks for Gregorious makes a lot of sense. I like Murphy but it’s really hard to keep 5 catchers on a 40 man roster and of the 3 that are not Gary Sanchez or Brian McCann, Murph has the most trade value.

  25. Tyler April 28th, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    I’m not in love with Gregorious’ bat… I don’t think he’s OPS’d much over .750 for a full minor league season. I think a younger catcher like Murphy with his 2 way potential can do a little bit better.

  26. Against All Odds April 28th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Wasn’t blake on yesterday??

  27. crorkz August 4th, 2014 at 5:03 am

    uTWOv2 A big thank you for your post.Really thank you! Great.

  28. crorkz matz August 5th, 2014 at 6:35 am

    el3g5i This is one awesome article post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

  29. matzcrorkz August 6th, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    ZENMY7 Great blog post. Really Cool.

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