A quick run through some of the early performances worth knowing in the minor league system.
· Why does Scott Sizemore standout as a call-up possibility for tomorrow? To start with, he’s a versatile infielder who’s hitting .344/.436/.500 in Triple-A (granted, with 16 strikeouts). But it’s also worth noting that the alternatives are limited. Ramon Flores is hitting pretty well after his strong big league camp, but as a left-handed outfielder, he would be redundant in New York. Another spring standout, Zelous Wheeler, is hitting .421/.476/.684, but he also just landed on the disabled list with a back injury. Either Sizemore or Triple-A first baseman Russ Canzler (.276/.303/.448) would seem to make the most sense given the Yankees current needs. Sizemore said during spring training that he has a May 1 opt out if he’s not added to the big league roster.
· The big league bullpen has been pretty good so far, but a few spring standout relievers have continued to pitch well for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre just in case. Most notable might be hard-throwing Danny Burawa, who has nine strikeouts, one walk and two hits allowed through five innings. Matt Daley, despite his 4.91 ERA, actually has 10 strikeouts and only one walk through 3.2 innings. Preston Claiborne has yet to allow a run, but he’s allowed four hits and three walks through four innings. Lefty Fred Lewis, who really made a name for himself this spring, has stumbled early in the year. He has a 2.40 WHIP and lefties are hitting .667 against him.
· Shane Greene has been optioned to Triple-A, which means he might finally get in a real game. Greene was kept in extended spring training to get stretched out as a starter, and he was called up to the big leagues before he could actually join the Triple-A rotation. Now it seems he’ll finally go to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to work as a starter. That Triple-A rotation could change quite a bit in the next few days and weeks. Alfredo Aceves and Chris Leroux also opened in extended spring training to get stretched out, and Manny Banuelos could jump to Triple-A when the weather gets a little warmer and more predictable. The Yankees are also waiting for Nik Turley to get healthy — he had that arm injury in spring training — and he would presumably go to Triple-A after making 26 starts in Double-A last year.
· Speaking of Banuelos, he’s been awfully good. Pitching for High-A Tampa — his first regular-season work since early 2012 — Banuelos has made three starts, each one lasting three innings. He’s allowed no runs, one walks and four hits. He’s struck out 11. On Sunday he went three hitless with six strikeouts and no walks.
· Arguably the top prospect in the system, Gary Sanchez is off to a fantastic start in Trenton. Through 34 at-bats, he was hitting .353/.450/.588 heading into tonight’s game. He’s also thrown out six of 12 attempted base stealers.
· Kind of a mixed bag from the other big names on that Double-A roster. … Tyler Austin is hitting just .240/.259/.240, but that’s after only 25 at-bats (including, as expected, some time back at third base). … Mason Williams is hitting .262/.326/.476 with as many walks as strikeouts. … Converted second baseman Rob Refsnyder has just one error so far, but he’s also hitting .143/.189/.314 through nine games. He’s struck out a team-high 15 times with just two walks. He had more walks than strikeouts last year. … After a year lost to injury, third baseman Rob Segedin has been pretty good as Trenton’s regular No. 3 hitter. He’s batting .320/.400/.440 with seven RBI in seven games.
· This day started with two Yankees minor leaguers having 10 RBI already. One was Sanchez. The other was Eric Jagielo, the team’s top pick in last year’s draft. Pushed to High-A Tampa to start his first full season — not unheard of for a college bat, but fairly aggressive for the Yankees — Jagielo is hitting just .220 but he’s slugging .488 with three home runs, all of which came in three straight games. The downside is, he’s struck out 13 times in 10 games.
· With Jagielo getting the bulk of the playing time at third base, Dante Bichette Jr. has been getting almost all of his playing time at designated hitter (he’s drawn a bunch of walks, but has yet to hit a homer: .267/.450/.400). … More interesting might be what the Yankees are doing with Pete O’Brien. He’s Tampa’s primary catcher, but after spending some time at third base last year, O’Brien is now adding flexibility by getting some time in right field. He’s played two games out there and has one outfield assist. Oh, and he’s also hitting .333/.366/.692 with four home runs already. … Middle infield duo of Cito Culver and Angelo Gumbs each have something to prove this year. Second baseman Gumbs is hitting .308/.325/.308. Shortstop Culver is hitting .256/.267/.349 with four errors in 10 games.
· Getting a second shot against High-A hitters, Rafael De Paula went five innings, two hits, no walks, six strikeouts in his most recent start on Friday. He has 12 strikeouts and a 3.24 ERA through two starts. … Also getting another turn in Tampa is Dietrich Enns, a lefty who’s gotten the win in each of his two appearances this season (one start, one long relief appearance piggybacking Banuelos). He’s gone nine innings with five hits, one run, four walks and seven strikeouts. … I don’t know much about Tampa starter Eric Wooten — the Yankees got him mid-season last year — but he pitched pretty well last year, and through two starts this season he has a 0.82 ERA with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
· Low-A Charleston was the only Yankees affiliate to begin this week with a losing record. That pitching staff has a 3.38 ERA, but the lineup has a team batting average of just .210 with a .302 slugging percentage. First baseman Mike Ford is hitting .351/.429/.568 with two home runs, which is half of the team total. Gosuke Katoh (.136/.286/.182), Luis Torrens (.095/.321/.095), Miguel Andujar (.200/.243/.314), and Tyler Wade (.129/.289/.129) are all off to pretty slow starts.
· Not an altogether bad start for much-hyped outfielder Aaron Judge. He’s still looking for his first extra-base hit, and his .250 batting average won’t catch much attention, but he’s drawn eight walks and has a .386 on-base percentage through his first 10 professional games. He’s getting all of his outfield time in right field.
· Emerging pitching prospect Luis Severino will make his third start of the season tomorrow. In his first start, he went two innings with three runs. In his second, he went 2.2 innings with no runs, no walks and five strikeouts. The pitching line that’s harder to ignore belongs to Cesar Vargas, who’s made four relief appearances for Charleston. He’s gone 9.1 innings with one unearned run, two walks and 15 strikeouts. He did have two inherited runners, each of whom scored.
* I started working on this in the afternoon, so the stats don’t include tonight’s games.
Associated Press photos of Sizemore and Banuelos; headshots of Jagielo and De Paula