This morning, Baseball America released its annual list of minor league free agents. These are the players whose contracts expired at the end of the season either because they were on one-year minor league deals or because their original contracts ran out (essentially, players drafted or signed in 2008 became free agents this year if they weren’t added to the 40-man roster).
Andrew Bailey is listed here because the Yankees declined their 2015 option on the veteran right-hander, but two sources say he’s been re-signed to a new minor league contract, which means he’ll be back in the Yankees system next year.
The Yankees originally signed Bailey back in spring training, and he spent all year rehabbing a shoulder injury. He never actually got into a game this season, but he’s been a very good big league reliever in the past. Very low-risk move bringing him back. Could be helpful if he gets healthy.
Here’s the list of Yankees minor league free agents:
RHP: Andrew Bailey (AAA), Jairo Heredia (AA), David Herndon (AAA)
RHP/LHP: Pat Venditte (AAA)
LHP: Ramon Benjamin (Hi A), Jeremy Bleich (AA), Francisco Rondon (AA), Nik Turley (AAA)
C: Jose Gil (AAA)
1B: Reymond Nunez (Hi A)
2B: Jose Toussen (AA)
3B: Scott Sizemore (AAA)
SS: Carmen Angelini (AAA)
OF: Zoilo Almonte (AAA)
A few things worth pointing out:
• Rondon, Turley and Almonte are all organizational prospects who were previously on the 40-man roster at some point. Almonte got some big league time the past two years, but he was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and became eligible for free agency. He clearly needs a fresh start with a team that might give him a real chance to get big league at-bats. Turley was released and re-signed earlier this year (he’d been hurt in spring training, and the Yankees needed to open a 40-man spot). I tend to think of him as being similar to a Rule 5 candidate: The Yankees either had to put him back on the 40-man or risk losing him. As long as he’s throwing strikes, Turley’s a solid prospect. Wouldn’t be stunned to see the Yankees try to re-sign him. Also wouldn’t be stunned to see him try his luck elsewhere.
• There was a time this season when I thought Venditte might have a real chance for a call-up. The Yankees were basically out of upper-level left-handed relievers — Rondon, Fred Lewis and Cesar Cabral had each stumbled in Triple-A — and Venditte was once again putting up pretty solid numbers. If the Yankees had suddenly needed a lefty, I wonder if Venditte might have gotten a chance (which would have been really cool to see). Instead, Rich Hill and Josh Outman were brought onboard and Venditte never got a look. Often labeled a novelty act because he throws with both hands, Venditte has a career 2.46 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the minors.
• Bleich was a supplemental-round pick in 2008, but he had some early injury problems that derailed his development for a while. Heredia was also once considered a pretty good prospect, but he too had some health problems. Despite being a starter through most of his career, he’s only once thrown more than 100 innings in a season, and that came way back in 2008 when he threw 102.1 innings in Low-A. Similar story with Angelini, who at one point might have been the top shortstop prospect in the system, but he missed a lot of time and never hit much.
• Many others Yankees minor leaguers were either released midseason or elected free agency previously this offseason. Among those most recognizable names: RHP Jim Miller, RHP Bruce Billings, RHP Chris Leroux, LHP Cesar Cabral, LHP Josh Outman, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Corban Joseph, OF Antoan Richardson.
Associated Press photos of Almonte and Turley; headshot of Bailey
Minor league injury updates • 01.11.11
This morning, Yankees vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman was good enough to provide some updates on a few of the injured players in the Yankees minor league system.
Two quick updates: Damon Sublett missed most of last year with a thumb injury, but he was back by the end of the season and is expected to be fine for spring training. Jairo Heredia, who seems to have been perpetually injured, made it through last season and is expected to still be healthy heading into spring training.
Back in December, Nunez was hit in the face by a botched bunt attempt in the Dominican Winter League. He missed some time, but he’s back on the field, playing shortstop again in the DWL postseason. He should be 100 percent in spring training.
In late July, Corona had to be carried off the field after a violent collision on the final play of the game. The diagnosis was ultimately a broken humerus bone in his right arm. Corona is in Tampa, but he won’t be healthy enough to open the season on an active roster. He’ll likely be limited to designated hitter before he’s ready to play the field.
Initially labeled as a sprain, Adams fractured his ankle sliding into second base back in May. He missed the rest of the season, but Adams is healthy again and should be ready to open the season, probably back in Trenton.
A supplemental first-round pick in 2008, Bleich was eight games into the Double-A season when he underwent surgery to repair a torn left labrum. He’s expected to pitch again in 2011, but Newman said it’s unlikely Bleich will be able to open the season.
Torn hip labrum
A significant risk-reward pick back in 2007, Angelini struggled through his first three professional seasons, then lost all of last year because of a hip injury and a few smaller lower-body ailments. Angelini is healthy again, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll open in Tampa or return to Charleston, where he played all of 2008 and part of 2009.
Knee and shoulder surgeries
A fifth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2009, Cotham has pitched eight professional innings, but he’s missed most of two seasons because of knee surgery followed by shoulder surgery to repair his labrum. Cotham showed quite a bit of promise before the injuries — “Good arm, strike thrower,” Newman said — but shoulders are tough and Cotham has missed a lot of time. He’s throwing again, but Newman said they won’t know much until he gets into spring training.
Let’s go heavy on prospects today, shall we? This is Baseball America’s Top 30 Yankees prospects heading into this season, listed with each player’s rank at the beginning of the season and the level where he finished the season.
No. 1 Jesus Montero
After a rocky start to the season, Montero turned things around in the second half and could fight for a big league job in spring training. He remains one of the elite prospects in baseball, with the only significant questions being where he’ll play in the field.
No. 2 Austin Romine
Romine dropped to sixth in this year’s rankings, but I’m not sure his ceiling or expectations have fallen. He had a kind of Derek Jeter-type season, starting strong and finishing strong, with three rough months in the middle. He’s in the Arizona Fall League now, and it’s easy to forget that he hasn’t turned 22 yet. Still very highly regarded, but he was passed on Baseball America’s list by young players and injured players whose stock soared after strong seasons.
No. 3 Arodys Vizcaino
Traded to the Braves
The big prospect in The Boone Logan Trade had a 2.74 ERA between two Class-A levels this season, but he was shutdown with an elbow injury.
No. 4 Slade Heathcott
Low-A center fielder
Got to Charleston at the start of June, and he might have lost a little ground in the prospect standings — he hit .258 with 101 strikeouts — but it’s hard to read too much into a 19-year-old’s first season of pro ball. He still in Baseball America’s Top 10 for the orgnization.
No. 5 Zach McAllister
Traded to Cleveland
This was the cost for two months of Austin Kearns. Had he stuck around, McAllister probably would have fallen out of the Top 10 after a 5.09 ERA in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was certainly overshadowed by several other upper-level pitchers.
No. 6 Manny Banuelos
Double-A left-handed starter
After a healthy second half that took him from High-A to Double-A, Banuelos is living up to expectations. Building up his workload seems to be the next step in his development. He’s in the Arizona Fall League right now and could pitch himself to the cusp of the big leagues next season. At 19 years old, he’s the youngest of the Yankees Killer B pitching prospects.
No. 7 Gary Sanchez
He’s been compared to Montero, except with more defensive tools. That’s why he moved all the way to No. 2 on this year’s Baseball America list. There is a ton of talent, but also a long way to go.
No. 8 J.R. Murphy
In so many ways, Murphy is “the other” catching prospect in the Yankees system. He’s only 19 years old — one year older than Sanchez — and he already held his own in Charleston. The power started to show in the second half.
No. 9 Jeremy Bleich
Injured Double-A left-handed starter
Stock took a hit because of shoulder surgery. He made only eight starts for Trenton. Hard to learn much about him from this season.
No. 10 Andrew Brackman
Double-A right-handed starter
This season might have been the best-case scenario for Brackman, the towering right-hander who had Tommy John surgery before throwing a single professional pitch. Brackman has always been a high-end talent, but he lived up to those expectations with a healthy and much-improved second season.
No. 11 Bryan Mitchell
Short-season right-handed starter
Opened in extended spring training, then pitched in the Gulf Coast League and got up to Staten Island in September. Still young, and Rookie Ball opponents hit .190 against him. Obvious potential. Obviously young.
No. 12 Mike Dunn
Traded to Atlanta
Another part of The Boone Logan Trade, he pitched his way to Atlanta but the Yankees might have gotten the better of the two young lefties in that trade.
No. 13 Corban Joseph
Double-A second baseman
Terrific numbers in Tampa sparked a second-half call-up to Trenton, where Joseph struggled with his first taste of upper-level pitching. Could play second or third base. Nothing especially flashy, but he lived up to expectation and might have exceeded it with his promotion.
No. 14 Eduardo Nunez
Major League shortstop
Nunez had to prove that 2009 was not a fluke, and he did just that with a terrific Triple-A season that ended with a call-up to New York and a late spot on the postseason roster. He hit .289 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but also showed an improved glove. That combination pushed him into the Yankees Top 10.
No. 15 Mark Melancon
Traded to Houston
Sent to the Astros in the Lance Berkman deal, Melancon simply never made that final step with the Yankees. He pitched pretty well in 20 appearances for the Astros.
No. 16 Ivan Nova
Major League right-handed starter
The Yankees always liked Nova’s potential, but he developed slowly until a strong 2009 season that landed him a spot on the 40-man. Now he’s a candidate for a spot in the back of the big league rotation. He’s the most advanced of the Yankees many upper-level pitching prospects.
No. 17 D.J. Mitchell
Triple-A right-handed starter
Moved into the Yankees Top 20 prospects, then got an invitation to big league camp, then pitched his way from Double-A to Triple-A. He generated better than a 2-to-1 ground out to fly out ratio in Double-A, then had a 3.57 ERA in three Triple-A starts. Overshadowed by some teammates, but he had a very nice season.
No. 18 Melky Mesa
High-A center fielder
He obviously did something right because now he’s on the 40-man roster. The MVP of the Florida State League has legitimate power and speed, but he also strikes out a ton and this year’s .260 average was actually his career-high. A complete wild card in this system.
No. 19 Kelvin DeLeon
Short-season right fielder
Stock might have slipped through a .236 average with six home runs and 80 strikeouts. Just turned 20, so there’s plenty of room to grow, but also a long way to go.
No. 20 Jose Ramirez
Low-A right-handed starter
A good arm lurking in the lower-levels of the Yankees minor league system, he had a 3.60 ERA with 105 strikeouts in Charleston this season. For now, he exists in the shadows of the pitchers ahead of him, but he’s certainly not an unknown. He’s a legitimate prospect in his own right.
No. 21 Graham Stoneburner
High-A right-handed starter
Leading into this season, Stoneburner was a favorite among writers and bloggers who closely follow the Yankees minor league system. He proved those believers right with a 2.41 ERA between Charleston and Tampa. He could be one of the fastest-rising stars in the organization, and there is considerable speculation that he could eventually end up in the bullpen, making ascent even faster.
No. 22 David Adams
Injured Double-A second baseman
Off to a .309 start in Trenton, Adams’ season was cut short by an ankle injury that cost him the bulk of the year and might have cost the Yankees a shot at Cliff Lee. I tend to lump Adams and Joseph together as Double-A guys able to play second or third. He seemed to be showing a lot this season, but it’s hard to make much of 39 games.
No. 23 Caleb Cotham
Cotham should have been in Charleston, but a pair of surgeries left him unable to pitch in an actual game this season. He has only eight professional innings to his name.
No. 24. Hector Noesi
Triple-A right-handed starter
Noesi had pitched only nine games above Low A when the Yankees put him on the 40-man roster this season. That said a lot about their expectations, and Noesi lived up them with a season that catapulted him into Baseball America’s Top 10. From High-A to Double-A to Triple-A, he could be next year’s Ivan Nova.
No. 25 David Phelps
Triple-A right-handed starter
There’s a common theme among most of these back-end starting pitchers: Except the injured Cotham, they were all outstanding. This was Phelps’ second full season, and he finished it with a 3.07 ERA in 12 Triple-A outings.
No. 26 Adam Warren
Double-A right-handed starter
Kind of like a one-year-younger version of Phelps, Warren had a 3.15 ERA in 10 Double-A starts after opening the year with a 2.22 in Tampa. The upper-level pitching depth in this system is incredible, as evidenced by the fact neither Phelps nor Warren deserved a spot among the Yankees Top 10 prospects.
No. 27 Kevin Russo
Major League utility
Russo’s value is in his ability to do a lot of things well. He served that role perfectly as a call-up who shifted to left-field when the Yankees were searching for outfield help. Nothing flashy, but when he was getting regular at-bats, he was contributing. He could easily play that same role next season.
No. 28 Dellin Betances
Double-A right-handed starter
This is the biggest leap of the bunch, and his jump into the Top 10 had as much to do with his health as his performance. Betances has always been a premier talent, but this year he got healthy and stayed healthy through a dominant second half. Expectations are sky
high again. He just has to stay off the disabled list this time.
No. 29 Jairo Heredia
High-A right-handed starter
Kind of like Nova in 2008 and Noesi in 2009, the Yankees have to decide whether to protect Heredia from the Rule 5 or take their chances that an unproven but talented young pitcher will sneak through. Heredia just turned 21, but he pitched just six times above Low A this season. Opponents there hit .359 against him.
No. 30 Jamie Hoffmann
Rule 5 pick sent back to Dodgers
The Yankees were clearly never planning to bring back Brian Bruney this offseason, so they traded him away for the right to draft Hoffmann. He hung around spring training for a while, but was ultimately sent back to the Dodgers. He hit .310 with eight home runs, 17 steals and 36 doubles in Triple-A.
Notes from Friday • 02.19.10
While Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were throwing their first official bullpen of the spring, Andy Pettitte followed the lead of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez. He stayed off the mound on Friday and will wait a few days before he starts his spring training throwing schedule.
“My body’s feeling good,” Pettitte said. “Everything feels good coming into the spring. I feel real good about that.”
Pettitte said the extra workload of the playoffs shouldn’t bother him because the Yankees did a good job of keeping their three-man, postseason rotation well rested at the end of the regular season. He feels fresh, and he was happy to see the team add another durable arm in Javier Vazquez. Those two had never met another until this winter, but they’ve already played golf together.
“You can’t ever have enough pitching, and not only is he a great pitcher, he’s a quality human being,” Pettitte said. “He’s going to be great here.”
• Joe Girardi on whether he’ll carry two lefties in the bullpen: “In a perfect world, you’d like to have two lefties. Last year we went with one lefty most of the time, and we were able to do it. We believe that our right-handers get left-handers out very well. You look at what Robertson did down there getting left-handers out, he was very successful. But in a perfect world, you’d love to have two because it gives you so many more options.”
• What’s the first thing Girardi looks for in his pitchers during spring training? “To me early, I want to see command of the fastball,” he said. “That’s extremely important. And that you pitch inside effectively. That’s important to us with all of our pitchers.”
• Yogi Berra was in the clubhouse this morning.
• Add David Winfree to the list of outfielders who have popped into the clubhouse. I really wish I could have covered him in Scranton. I went to say hello and it turned into a five minute conversation. Very easy to talk to. Also, he’s a big dude. I have absolutely no trouble believing he can hit a few balls out of the park. And he’s really excited about being a Yankee. He talked about the prestige of wearing the pinstripes.
• Greg Golson was also around for a little bit this afternoon. He popped in and out a few days ago, but I wasn’t sure it was him. This time I said hello, and Golson said he has something to prove after two teams sent him elsewhere. He was a lot like Winfree, very easy to talk to, seems to be out to prove himself. This could be a good situation for him because of that spot on the 40-man.
• Kind of a funny line from Girardi, asked if anything jumped out this early in camp: “A lot of good arms in camp. You look at some of the sizes of these guys. Those are some pretty intimidating figures on the mound. I need a step stool to go talk to them.” He didn’t name names, but I’m thinking Jason Hirsh, Andrew Brackman, Grant Duff, Jonathan Albaladejo and Romulo Sanchez.
• Finally met Kyle Higashioka and Jeremy Bleich today. They’ve been around, but I hadn’t said hello. For the record, their names are pronounce He-ga-she-oh-ka and Bly-sh.
• Pitchers who threw in the bullpen today:
First group: Chamberlain, Garcia, Hughes, Ramirez
Second group: Igawa, Melancon, Logan, Moseley
Third group: McAllister, Nova, Whelan
Fourth group: Bleich, De La Rosa, Mitchell, Noesi
• Like yesterday, I only wrote down the catchers for the first group: Posada caught Chamberlain, Rivera caught Garcia, Montero caught Hughes and Romine caught Ramirez.
• In the picture up top, Girardi and Dave Eiland are on the far left of the group of coaches watching pitchers get loose.