Mailbag: The Triple-A Scranton Roster

Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke
Arias raises hell in the Dominican Republic
Kevin Russo will find himself back in Triple-A in 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

I know the roster isn’t being close to set right now, but if the season started today, what would the AAA rotation and starting position players look like?

Let’s start out with the obvious qualifier: a lot can change between now and the start of the season, so don’t take this to heart. Players can get traded, hurt, unexpectedly win a spot on the big league roster, all sorts of stuff. We still have a general idea of who will be there, so this isn’t an entirely useless exercise. Let’s break it down into four categories…

Mortal Locks
A big chunk of the pitching staff falls into this group. Andrew Brackman is the headliner after a fine (and just about full) season in Double-A, and he’ll be joined by Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell, all of whom got a brief taste of the Scranton life last year. We also can’t forget about the winningest pitcher in franchise history, Kei Igawa, who figures to do the swingman thing again. Minor league free agent signings Mark Prior, Andy Sisco, and Neal Cotts will get bullpen gigs. Remember though, Cotts is rehabbing from hip surgery and might not be ready to start the season.

The offense will be highlighted once again by Jesus Montero, who will return to Triple-A to start the season after the Russell Martin signing. He’ll be backed up by minor league free agent signing Gustavo Molina. Colin Curtis and waiver pickup Jordan Parraz will hold down the two corner outfield spots while Brandon Laird and Jorge Vazquez get the corner infield spots. Unless he gets released to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Reegie Corona will be with Scranton in some capacity, ditto Kevin Russo, who has nothing more than an outside chance to win a bench job with the big league team. Minor league free agent signing and 2009 Scranton Yankee Doug Bernier will come off the bench.

Probables
Eduardo Nunez and Greg Golson have halfway decent chances to start the season in the Bronx in reserve roles, but if not they’ll play everyday in Scranton. Ryan Pope is in the same situation, just out of the bullpen. If he’s with Triple-A, he’s the odds on favorite to replace the departed Jon Albaladejo as closer. Kevin Whelan, the last remaining piece of the Gary Sheffield trade, has a leg up on one of the few remaining bullpen spots. Amaury Sanit’s biggest threat for a roster spot is being released.

On The Fence
The non-prospect bullpen filler resides here. That means J.B. Cox, Grant Duff, Josh Schmidt, and Eric Wordekemper. Those guys will only end up in Triple-A if warm bodies are needed. Justin Snyder did his thing as a bench player for Double-A Trenton the last two years and could move up, especially if Nunez makes the big league roster.

Unlike those last few guys, Adam Warren is an actual prospect but one with limited Double-A experience. He’s likely to start back with Trenton after making just ten starts there last season, but we could always be surprised. Dan Brewer had a fine season in Double-A in 2010 (.345 wOBA), but he could get squeezed out of the Triple-A mix in a numbers crunch, especially if Laird will continue working in left field. Buddy Carlyle is a candidate to be released in Spring Training (might even have an escape clause in his contract), and Brian Anderson could start back in Extended Spring Training since he’s so new to pitching (converted just this year).

Long Shots
David Adams destroyed the Double-A level this past year (.403 wOBA), but an ankle injury ended his season after just 173 plate appearances. He’ll be back there in April. Damon Sublett is in a similar situation after injury, and Austin Romine should start with Trenton after his poor second half. Plus Montero squeezes him out. Romulo Sanchez is out of options and will need to clear waivers to go back to the minors, but he’s also been outrighted before (by the Pirates) and can elect free agency. I expect him to be a goner one way or the other.

Both Manny Banuelos (15.1 IP) and Dellin Betances (14.1 IP) got limited experience at Double-A in 2010, and it would be extremely aggressive to move them up already, maybe even downright reckless (with regards to their development). It took Pat Venditte a really long time to get out of High-A Tampa (109.1 IP over two seasons), so don’t expect him to get moved to Triple-A so quickly. Cory Arbiso is going to end up back in Trenton just because of sheer numbers. Austin Krum spent all of 2010 in Double-A but didn’t do enough (.298 wOBA) to get promoted.

So after all that, here’s my stupid early projection for the Triple-A roster. Remember that Triple-A rosters are only 24 players deep, not 25. Let me know what you think and whether or not I missed someone obvious (possible if not likely) in the comments.

C: Montero
1B: Vazquez
2B: Corona
SS: Nunez
3B: Russo
LF: Laird
CF: Golson
RF: Parraz/Curtis/
DH: Parraz/Curtis/rotating spot

Bench: Molina (C), Bernier (IF), Snyder (UTIL), last spot goes to a utility guy on a minor league deal

Rotation: Brackman, Noesi, Mitchell, Phelps, Igawa/Sisco

Bullpen: Pope, Prior, Wordekemper, Schmidt, Whelan, Igawa/Sisco

DL/Rehab: Cotts

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Brewers Acquire Zack Greinke
Arias raises hell in the Dominican Republic
  • TMiller

    I want Montero in NY!

    • Granderslam

      At this rate, you’re going to get your wish. No one available to trade him for, so we will probably get a glimpse of him in Pinstripes sometime this season.

      • CP

        A glimpse? He should start the season in NY. There’s nothing he’ll do in AAA that he can’t do in the majors.

        • pat

          Besides start?

          • CP

            He can do that in the majors, too.

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals

              No.

              Leave him in AAA until June…it lets everybody get something going and warmed up and worked out, and maybe even Romine is ready for the promotion to AAA.

              And it saves a year of arbitration.

              • Ed

                And it saves a year of arbitration.

                Maybe, maybe not. The super two rule is almost certainly being changed in the next CBA, which will happen before Montero can be eligible for arbitration.

                I think leaving him in the minors for the 2 weeks necessary to delay free agency by a year is worthwhile.

                • CP

                  Or the CBA could change that. It could make the cutoff 25 days instead of 15 (or whatever it is today) and then you lose those 2 weeks of Montero playing AND he becomes a FA after 2016.

                  I think this is all overblown because he will be signed for a deal that covers hist first FA year before he gets there – or he’ll bust. The chances of him actually becoming a FA after 2016 are remote.

              • CP

                it lets everybody get something going and warmed up and worked out, and maybe even Romine is ready for the promotion to AAA.

                What does everybody need to get going and warmed up and worked out? There’s no benefit to the major league team this season in having him start the year in AAA.

                Also, if he’s in the majors, then Cervelli would be in AAA so it doesn’t matter if Romine is ready.

                • Sayid J.

                  There’s no benefit to the major league team this season in having him start the year in AAA.

                  Unless he’s not ready for the MLB, in which case it would be a huge benefit to not have him in the Yankee lineup.

  • http://kierstenschmidt.com Kiersten

    You counted Russo twice. Unless there are 2 Russos.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Yeah I noticed. Fixed now.

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

    They never got rid of Cox? Weren’t they discussing that after his incidents this year? For some reason I thought they had. I’m sure he’ll be on a very short leash.

  • http://twitter.com//TylerWilkinson T-Dubs

    Hoping Warren takes that Igawa/Sisco spot by June 1st.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

      Your Adam Warren mancrush is beginning to rival your Ray Allen mancrush. I’m totally on board with Warren too. I like the sound of him when they drafted him, then his velocity seemed to tick up a bit and he went from intriguing to promising rather quickly.

      • http://twitter.com//TylerWilkinson T-Dubs

        10 years from now I’ll be Bexy to Warren’s Pettitte.

        Also, Ray Allen is the man.

  • MikeD

    I gather you’re assuming Ivan Nova makes the Yankee roster in some capacity, either holding down the 5th rotation slot or long man in the pen? Or is moved as part of a trade?

  • YankeesJunkie

    I am looking forward to see what Brackman does in AAA and later on hopefully Adams and Warren as well. Adams has killed in every level and if he does in AAA he has some real trade value. Warren on the other has always seemed like an Aceves type pitcher with better stuff so he could make an impact in late 2011 or 2012 in the majors.

  • http://hardballtimes.com Dan Novick

    Wouldnt it make sense to put Warren in the AAA rotation and put Igawa in the bullpen as a long/swing man? Put either Wordekemper or Schmidt in AA until you need one.

    I know Warren only made 10 starts in AA, but a 3.69 K/BB ratio and only 0.3 HR/9 would seem to indicate that he doesn’t need more time there. Independent of the roster crunch, I think Warren should be in AAA.

    • YankeesJunkie

      There is no reason to rush him to AAA right away. Maybe another 5-10 starts of performing well in AA will give him a call up. I don’t expect to see him in AA much longer.

      • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

        I agree. At least give him a month or two in AA to start and go from there. If he continues to dominate (and you have the room) move him up to AAA.

        • YankeesJunkie

          However, I wouldn’t surprised to see him get on the 40 man and called up in September if he does well and the Yanks bullpen in lacking. He has four different pitches which he can use and command makes him a great candidate for a middle reliever next year.

          • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

            Agreed, he definitely seems to be on the fast track.

      • http://www.yfsf.org AndrewYF

        Warren is going to be 24 in August, and has dominated AA.

        He should be in AAA.

  • Accent Shallow

    I’m currently a little bearish on Brackman, due to him giving up so many hits. However, 15 starts at AA is probably plenty, given the results.

    • YankeesJunkie

      77 hits in AA in 80 IP that is not awful.

      • Accent Shallow

        No, it’s not awful, I’d just like to see <8 H/9. Also, the K-rate isn't great for someone with supposedly devastating stuff (at age appropriate levels). I’m not saying he sucks, just that I’m not as enthused about him as I am about the other Bs.

        • YankeesJunkie

          Considering that Brackman has only been pitching solely for the last two years your expectations are a little high and misguided. He only has so much control on how many hits he gives up and his strike out rates have been above average.

          • Accent Shallow

            He only has so much control on how many hits he gives up

            I disagree. While this is true of the majors, I’m not so sure that it’s true of the minors — in fact, I’d argue one purpose of the minors is to weed out the pitchers who don’t have an MLB-type BABIP skill.

            Brackman had a BABIP of .366 at A+, and .326 in Trenton. I don’t think that’s enough information to say for sure that that’s going to be a problem going forward, but it’s enough to make me wonder.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              It’s all about context. Remember he’s playing in front of minor league defenders on minor league fields. Also, pitchers don’t have their own BABIP level like hitters, there’s a league average for pitchers they should (in theory) regress too.

              • Accent Shallow

                there’s a league average for pitchers they should (in theory) regress too.

                In terms of MLB pitchers, I agree completely. When it comes to those pitching in the minors, I’m not so sure.

                And I’m not saying that this is definitely a sign he’s not a viable MLB pitcher — it’s a mild area of concern, that’s all. I’m just under the impression that a low H/9 is a desirable thing to look for in a pitching prospect, after the three FIP categories, of course.

              • Greg Corcoran

                His high amount of hits is a concern but until we see what he can do in the majors it’s not really relevant. Hits that drop in the minors might not in the majors. I’ve always said though that some pitchers will inevitably have a higher BABIP because they let up a ton of line drives and hard ground balls, which statistically will result in a higher hit rate. Hopefully Brack doesn’t fall into this category. Hopefully he falls into the category of those that will even out with the rate of the rest of the league.

  • pat

    An AAA rotation full of actual prospects. Wow, that’s almost unbelievable.

  • Plank

    Nice, my question got picked. Thanks.

  • YankeesJunkie

    Mitchell is not much of a prospect and Igawa/Sisco is not even close to being a prospect.

    • pat

      Disagree about Mitchell and the 5th spot will likely be filled by Adam Warren after a month or two.

    • Greg Corcoran

      It’s funny how things change. If you had asked fans of the Yankees farm system about DJ Mitchell before the beginning of the 2010 season, there was still a great deal of excitement about him. People were thinking he would be great in AA. It’s amazing how things change and just goes to show that some of these prospects everyone is hailing as the next Joba, Phil, etc. will inevitably fall out of favor.

  • jay

    I know igawa is not even an average pitcher but i think he should be given a chance in the majors or be released. Im a big yankee fan but i would love for him to go to the padres and win 15 games with a 4 era. i think he can do it. It sucks that he never got a REAL chance. even gaudin and mosley get chances hek a 40 year old sid fernandez once got a chance

    • http://www.twitter.com/deanezag Zack

      I’m going to pretend this is all sarcasm

      • http://www.mystiqueandaura.com/ JMK

        There’s magic in that post.

  • Mattchu12

    I wonder if the Brackmonster will show up in the bullpen at some point this season. He reminds me a lot of Joba Chamberlain, and not that I want to screw him up like we did Joba, he could be that in-house key addition we might need down the stretch like Joba was in 2007.

    • YankeesJunkie

      He will need to continue to grow as a pitcher as he did last year where he made some great strides. It would be nice to see him lower the BB rate a bit more considering it was over 3.5 in AA and hear reports that he is hitting 95 in the gun. However, if he does come up hopefully it is in August and September rather than June or July.

    • Jobu

      I am wondering if he is going to show up as the fifth starter at some point this season.

  • NYY

    Hey:

    I’m one of the guys on the team, just letting you know I appreciate this update on the AAA guys, without you I’d have no clue who these guys are.

    • http://www.retire21.org Mike R.- Retire 21

      You can trust us. Who are you?

      • NYY

        You’ll have to guess, I could get in trouble for posting like this. These AAA guys come up and nobody knows who they are and then they kick ass, it’s pretty surprising sometimes.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

          Please stop pretending to be a player. You’ve commented here using another handle, just stop.

          • Plank

            So did you ban him or did he just give up?

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              He gave up.

              • Plank

                You scared him off, now we’ll never no which guy on the team he was.

        • Plank

          You’ll have to guess, I could get in trouble for posting like this.

          Elvis? Jesus? The one armed man?

        • Dave

          C’mon, Andy Phillips. Cut it out.

  • MikeD

    The developing rotation/bullpen in AAA, as well as the same in AA, has me wondering if Igawa will make it through the season.

    He’s in the last year of his contract, so the Yankees are down to the final $4 million they owe him, which they’re paying if he’s in the organization or not. He’s no longer on the 40-man roster, which is why we’ll never see him pitch in NY again. Granted, he was off the charts on the suck scale, yet despite paying him all that money, they never once attempted to recall him, even when there were times they could have used an additional arm out of the pen for a week or two, no matter how bad the arm was, and they never attempted to see if he offered any level of LOOGY potential. There are two reasons why, both which exceed any potential value he could give the MLB team. First, they’d have to cut some other, potentially more valuable player from the 40-man roster. Second, once he’s back on the the 40-man, his salary would be subject to the luxury-tax calculation, so instead of costing the Yankees $4 million, he’d cost them up to $5.6 million. Never going to happen.

    So the Yankees have been happy to keep him down in AAA where he’s providing some value to the orgnization for their money, even if it’s as an innings eater protecting more valuable arms. I haven’t had a problem wiht that as long as he wasn’t blocking the development of some other pitcher. With all the arms the Yankees now have at AAA, and anticipating need to make more room for additional prospects now in AA, I wonder if the Yankees will soon bite the bullet and simply cut him. I don’t think the outright cut would cost them anymore, since he’s not on the MLB roster, so his salary shouldn’t be subject to the luxury tax.

    One has to wonder why keep him around at this point, beyond embarassment. He was a failure as a signing, yet there were those who never believed he was cut out for the AL and the AL East, projecting his fringy stuff better for the DH-less NL, especially the NL West, and in a nice big, fly-ball-kind park such as Petco. Having to pay most of his $4-million salary (and more if they cut him in previous years) and then see him provide any value at all to another MLB team while the Yankees were paying most of his contract might be a double embarassment to the organization. That’s really one of the few reasons I can see them not cutting him, yet I wonder if he’s getting to the point where he might block someone more valuable from making the AAA roster.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      I love the idea of trading him to anybody for a box of Deez. Pay half his salary if you have to–just get back something for him…sheesh…

  • Joey C

    Brackman will not start in AAA,he will start in AA.J.B.Cox is done,remember his temper tantrum.He won’t be pitching with the Yankees.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    i…i just can’t get past this: can’t Igawa do SOMETHING for some team out there? the Pirates suck–can’t we send him there?

  • Dave

    even if it’s as an innings eater protecting more valuable arms

    This. It’s the greatest return that you could possibly get for Igawa. Even if you traded him away, you’d end up paying half his salary (at least). And player you get back for him couldn’t possibly be worth $2M/year.

    His value is to protect the arms of worth to us.

  • mike

    I guess this means we won’t see a spot for PJ Pilliterre in AAA. Its a shame he could play C and 1B. Was hoping he could make the majors as a Yankee.

    Hope he signs some where quick

  • Greg Corcoran

    I think we’ll be seeing Kontos AND Pendleton again. I’d love to see them stick in the major leagues, because I will always root for them, but I’d be surprised if both weren’t back with us before the 1 month mark. Pendleton will be our 5th starter in AAA