Here’s an interesting lineup note: Tonight’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre infield has Ronnier Mustelier at third, Corban Joseph at second and David Adams at first.
We’ve already seen the Yankees send Joseph to first base a few times this season. Now Adams is getting a turn, and as far as I can tell, it’s his first time ever playing the position.
As for what to read into that…
Given the current first base situation in New York, where Lyle Overbay has no real backup, it makes sense to have two pretty solid utility-types learn the position. But it’s also worth noting, that while Joseph and Adams are pretty good offensive infielders, neither one stands out as a first-base type bat. Learning first base in order to play it in a pinch makes sense, but it’s hard to imagine either one being truly converted to the position.
Another thing to consider is that it makes sense to use first base almost like a second DH. The Yankees want to give Adams some time at second base, and when that happens, they can keep Joseph in the lineup by playing him at first. They also want to give Mustelier some time at third, and when that happens, they can move Adams to first. First base could be little more than a way for these guys to get at-bats.
More playing time, with a little extra defensive flexibility? Why not?
• This morning, Zoilo Almonte was named International League Player of the Week. He had a hit in all eight RailRiders games, batting .355 with two home runs and a league-best seven RBI. His season slash line is pretty terrific — .293/.393/.455 — but the problem with Almonte, from the Yankees perspective, is that he’s a switch hitter who’s much better from the left side. He’s hitting .299/.400/.494 against righties, but .273/.370/.318 against lefties. He has 10 extra-base hits this season, only one of them against a left-hander. The Yankees would have far more use for Almonte from the right side.
• Chien-Ming Wang is making another Triple-A start tonight. Wang’s numbers are terrific — 0.95 ERA through three starts — but Brian Cashman said last week that the Yankees want Wang to be more effective with his offspeed stuff. He still has the sinker, but it doesn’t have the same velocity that he had when he was a 19-game winner. The Yankees believe he’ll need to use his secondary stuff to have success with the current fastball.
• If this Eduardo Nunez rib cage injury is a real issue that requires a DL stint, who would the Yankees bring up? Gil Velazquez is a steady veteran, but he’s hitting .197 with no extra-base hits in Triple-A. Addison Maruszak is less proven defensively, but he has a .390 Triple-A on-base percentage and can play basically any position except pitcher. The bigger issue might be this: There’s not another shortstop on the 40-man roster. If the Yankees had to make a call-up, it might make more sense to recall Joseph and simply consider Chris Nelson the emergency shortstop for a couple of weeks.
• This really has little impact on the big league roster, but it seems like a real issue for the Triple-A team: Cody Johnson, Dan Johnson and Luke Murton have combined for three home runs for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Dan Johnson has always raked at that level, and both Murton and Cody Johnson have — at the very least — shown legitimate power in Double-A. I have to imagine that the Yankees expected their Triple-A roster to get a power boost from at least one of those three.
• Down in Double-A, Slade Heathcott is hitting just .198/.276/.291, Tyler Austin is slugging just .394 — granted, his on-base percentage is also .394 — and Ramon Flores recently hit a cold spell that’s dropped his batting average from .333 to .263 in a span of two weeks. So who’s the prospect standout in Trenton? It has to be catcher J.R. Murphy who’s hitting .309/.408/.543 with more walks than strikeouts.
• It’s worth noting that Rob Segedin was also putting up terrific Double-A numbers — .338/.390/.606 with 10 doubles — before landing on the disabled list with a hip injury. The down side: He’d also made nine errors at third base, the most errors of anyone in the system.
• After making a huge impression in spring training, Jose Ramirez was kept back in extended spring for a few weeks before finally making his regular season debut with four scoreless innings on April 26. He then pitched five innings with one hit and one unearned run on Wednesday. He’s scheduled to make his third appearance tomorrow. So far, he has 12 strikeouts and two walks through nine innings.
• Francisco Rondon as a starter this season: 7.16 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 22 strikeouts and 17 walks through 27.2 innings. Wonder how long this experiment will continue if the numbers don’t improve drastically.
• Most eye-opening offensive stats in the Yankees organization? Has to be Rob Refsnyder. An NCAA standout at Arizona, Refsnyder is moving from the outfield back to second base — where he played in high school and, I believe, early in college — and his 11 errors show that there’s a bit of a learning curve. But the bat… my goodness. Refsnyder has already been promoted from Low-A to High-A, and between the two stops he’s hitting a combined .374/.486/.504 with more walks than strikeouts and 12 stolen bases without being caught. His numbers have actually been better since the promotion. He’s played 16 High-A games, and he’s had multiple hits in eight of them. Crazy.
• Yonkers native Dan Fiorito — signed last year out of Manhattanville after impressing the Yankees during a workout for non-drafted players — was sent to Tampa on April 22 to help out at shortstop. He’s basically become the everyday guy hitting .400/.478/.425 through 40 at-bats. He’s not a name on the prospect radar, but because of where he’s from I know him a little and was actually paying attention to him every time I was at the minor league complex this spring. He really, really stood out as a guy who seemed willing and able to lead. Heard him talking to teammates a lot between innings. A lot of “Let’s go, we can do this” kind of stuff. It stood out considering it was coming from a guy who’d never been in spring training and didn’t have the draft pedigree of most of the guys around him. Not saying he’s a future Jeter, just something that caught my attention.
• Back-to-back two-hit games by Gary Sanchez and his slash line is back up to .269/.355/.472 with five home runs, most of anyone in the system.
• Big strikeout numbers from Tampa starters Corey Black (36 in 30.2 innings), Mikey O’Brien (34 in 26.2 innings) and Shane Greene (33 in 36.1 innings) but the Tampa starter with the lowest ERA and lost opponents batting average is Bryan Mitchell with a 3.06 ERA and .235 opponents average. His down side has been the 18 walks. Lowest WHIP in that Tampa rotation belongs to the other starter, Scottie Allen, at 1.19. Pretty decent young arms in that group.
• We head all the way down to Charleston to find the organizational leader in walks. Low-A first baseman Greg Bird has 25 walks, good for a .425 on-base percentage. He slugged .494 in limited at-bats last season, but that power hasn’t shown up so far this season (only a .364 slugging percentage with one homer) but obviously the approach is encouraging for a 20-year-old.
• Less encouraging are the numbers for Low-A third baseman Dante Bichette Jr., who’s still trying to recapture his standout 2011 results. Sent to Charleston for a second season, Bichette is hitting just .186/.246/.265 with two homers, seven walks and 33 strikeouts. Speaking of repeating Low-A, shortstop Cito Culver has always been a glove-first player, but his .212/.305/.354 slash line is basically the same as last season except with a more power (Culver hit two homers last year, he’s already hit three this year).
• Want more good news in the Charleston lineup? Catcher Peter O’Brien has seven hits in his past three games and is hitting .313/.348/.563 for the year. He played in 21 games and has more than one hit in nine of them. He’s thrown out just over 25 percent of base stealers, which ranks him near the bottom of the South Atlantic League.
• Welcome to the U.S., Rafael De Paula. I was beginning to think he was more myth than man, but he’s finally pitching in the states and has an unreal 46 strikeouts through 27.1 innings with Charleston. Opponents are hitting .188 against him. That’s called living up to the hype, but Gabe Encinas is not sitting quietly in the shadows. Drafted in 2010, Encinas hasn’t put up particularly impressive numbers until this season. Through six starts he has a 0.84 ERA while holding opponents to a .175 average. His 28 strikeouts aren’t as impressive as De Paula’s massive number of Ks, but Encinas’ 1.05 WHIP is lower than De Paula’s 1.21.
Adams photo from my great friends at the Scranton Times-Tribune; headshots of Almonte, Murphy, Refsnyder and Bird
Exactly one week after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers, Yankees camp opened this morning with Dellin Betances taking the mound on the main field here at Steinbrenner Field. Two hitters, Austin Krum and Greg Golson, took turns against him.
I asked Golson how Betances looked, and Golson gave a classic hitter’s response: He said he refuses to say any pitcher’s stuff was good, even if it’s during a batting practice session in front of no one but a few coaches. If Golson gets out, it’s his own fault. I thought it was pretty funny, but I don’t think Golson meant it as a joke.
Apparently Betances is the only pitcher who faced hitters this morning. There should be more later in the day.
• Infielder Addison Maruszak has been added to big league camp, but he’s here as a catcher. Primarily a shortstop, he was the Yankees 17th-round pick in 2008, and he’s played all over the infield. This fall Maruszak started getting some time at catcher during instructs. The Yankees have always like Maruszak’s arm, and he said they’re grooming as a kind of eight-position utility man. He’s never played the outfield as a pro, but he’s certain he could handle it. Maruszak said he’s already pretty comfortable behind the plate, though he’s still honing his instincts back there.
• Maruszak said he’s not sure how long he’ll be in big league camp. He doesn’t know whether this will be an occasional thing, a one-or-two day stint, or if he’s here until being reassigned just like everyone else. As far as I know he hasn’t been officially added to the spring roster.
• Hector Noesi said this morning that he was throwing bullpens back home, so he’s not really behind the other pitchers in camp. He was never concerned that he wouldn’t be able to get here.
• Random observation: Francisco Cervelli spent the winter working out with Robinson Cano, but it’s funny how much he still follows and constantly talks to Jorge Posada. Once a mentor, always a mentor, I guess.
• On the sheet of paper that lists the hitting and defensive assignments for the day, every player name is typed in black ink with two exceptions: Brandon Laird and Kevin Russo are written in red. I assume that’s because they’re the guys who will shuttle between infield and outfield drills.
• Bullpen assignments:
Andy Sisco (to Francisco Cervelli)
Andrew Brackman (to Kyle Higashioka)
Steve Garrison (to Kyle Higashioka)
Daniel Turpen (to Jesus Montero)
David Phelps (to Austin Romine)
Adam Warren (to Jose Gil)
D.J. Mitchell (to Jose Gil)
Eric Wordekemper (to Addison Maruszak)
• Hitting groups: Most are the same as yesterday, with catchers moving around
Infield Group 1: Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Jorge Posada
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Austin Romine
Infield Group 3: Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Kevin Russo, Jose Gil
Infield Group 4: Doug Bernier, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Addison Maruszak
Outfield Group 1: Greg Golson, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin
Outfield Group 2: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Justin Maxwell, Francisco Cervelli
Outfield Group 3: Colin Curtis, Jordan Parraz, Melky Mesa, Kyle Higashioka
Outfield Group 4: Daniel Brewer, Austin Krum, Brandon Laird, Gustavo Molina, Jesus Montero
• Fielding groups: The exact same as yesterday’s groups, Maruszak wasn’t listed with a defensive group
Catcher Group 1: Jose Gil, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, Russell Martin
Catcher Group 2: Francisco Cervelli, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Posada, Austin Romine
Infield Group 1: Doug Bernier, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez
Infield Group 2: Ronnie Belliard, Brandon Laird, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Russo, Mark Teixeira
Outfield Group 1: Daniel Brewer, Curtis Granderson, Andruw Jones, Austin Krum, Jordan Parraz
Outfield Group 2: Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher