Looking at the Triple-A Scranton roster

Keith Law's top ten Yankees prospects list
Sabathia doesn't expect to be far behind in Spring Training
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
The backup catcher. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Every year around this time I try to figure out who will be playing where for Triple-A Scranton during the upcoming season. Most years it’s pretty straight forward with the caveat that minor league rosters can change in a hurry, but this season is a little different. The Yankees still have a number of spots open on the big league bench, and the way the team fills those spots will impact the Triple-A roster. Here’s a look at how things are lining up for the club’s top minor league affiliate two months from Opening Day…

Catchers: Austin Romine, Bobby Wilson

This is probably the most straight forward position. Romine will have a chance to make the big league team in Spring Training, but the smart money is on him going back to Triple-A for some much needed playing time. He’s missed an awful lot of development time these last two years due to the persistent back problems. Wilson, who signed a minor league contract earlier this winter, has an even smaller chance of making the big league team and is the obvious choice to backup Romine with Scranton.

Infielders: 3B David Adams, 1B Dan Johnson, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Addison Maruszak, IF Gil Velazquez

Depending on what the Yankees do with their utility infield position at the big league level, Jayson Nix and/or Eduardo Nunez could factor in here as well. I would expect either of those guys to play everyday in Triple-A if they don’t make the team, presumably relegating Maruszak to the bench.

Adams will inevitably get some time at second base just to remain familiar with the position, but he’ll be the club’s everyday third baseman and likely three-hole hitter. Johnson, who does have a small chance of making the Yankees as a lefty bat off the bench, is a former International League MVP. He’ll probably mix in a handful of games at third base just to stay sharp there as well. Maruszak had a nice year in Double-A last summer and will probably play shortstop everyday, but he’s rough at the position and fits best in a utility role. It’s Triple-A though and he’s more of a prospect than Velazquez.

Outfielders: Abe Almonte, Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, Ronnie Mustelier, Thomas Neal

Neal. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Neal. (Jason Miller/Getty)

As I wrote over the weekend, the outfield picture at the Double-A and Triple-A levels is very crowded and someone is going to lose out on playing time. The DH spot means four of these guys can play everyday — I’m sure they would rotate rather than have a set DH — and I’m guessing Neal is the on the short-end of the playing time stick.

Two catchers, five infielders, and five outfielders gives us a dozen position players total, but remember, they only have 24-man rosters in Triple-A and apparently they carry 25-man rosters these days. Luke Murton, who hit 24 homers for Trenton last season, will likely get squeezed out in the numbers game and have to suit up for the Thunder again could make the team as well. If Nunez or Nix has to spend time in Triple-A, I’m guessing Neal would either get bumped down to Double-A (he played there all of last season) or flat-out released to make room there would be room for just one of Murton and Neal..

Rotation: LHP Shaeffer Hall, RHP Brett Marshall, LHP Vidal Nuno, RHP Adam Warren

This will be Warren’s third year at the Triple-A level while the other three will be getting bumped up from Double-A for the first time. The open spot figures to go to a veteran on a minor league contract, and I listed a handful of potential targets yesterday. Only one of those guys seems like a realistic option though.

Bullpen: RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Juan Cedeno, RHP Jim Miller, LHP Francisco Rondon, LHP Josh Spence, RHP Chase Whitley

That’s six relievers for what was a nine-man bullpen at times last year. I’m assuming they’ll start the year with the usual seven. RHP Matt Daley did not pitch last year after having shoulder surgery in August 2011, but I don’t know where he is in his rehab. He’s been invited to Spring Training and if he’s healthy, he’ll definitely join these guys in the Triple-A bullpen. RHP David Herndon had Tommy John surgery last June and figures to join the Scranton bullpen at midseason.

There are plenty of other candidates for the Triple-A bullpen, including righties Preston Claiborne, Craig Heyer, Kelvin Perez, Ryan Pope, and Graham Stoneburner. RHP Mark Montgomery made just 15 appearances with the Thunder last summer, so expect him to open the year back in Trenton. He’ll be with Scranton before long, however. If the Yankees don’t sign a scrap heap veteran to fill out the rotation, I suppose Betances could try starting again. That would leave two unoccupied bullpen spots and plenty of spare relievers to choose from.

Keith Law's top ten Yankees prospects list
Sabathia doesn't expect to be far behind in Spring Training
  • Gonzo

    Players you’re most interested in hearing about from AAA this year? Here are mine.

    Position player: David Adams

    SP: Brett Marshall

    RP: Dellin Betances

    • Barry’s Gift Basket

      Romine without a doubt.

      • trr

        God, we have no one in the Minors @ SS!

        • Preston

          Quality SS are in low supply. Although I think we’re okay in that regard. Eduardo Nunez has the physical ability and can hit a little. He’s not the worst plan B in the world. I’m not sure why Mike doesn’t have Jose Pirela getting promoted to AAA after his breakout, but he could turn out to be a nice SS prospect as well.

          • Preston

            My bad, apparently Pirela got moved to 2B last year (maybe the decreased defensive load lead to the offensive uptick) so he’s not getting promoted because he’s blocked by Adams/Cojo.

          • Ted Nelson

            Yeah, not many teams have a lot of SS options. Between Nunez and Nix I think the Yankees have respectable enough depth.

            Pirela played all over last year (2B/LF/3B), so I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the Scranton UTL at some point this season (maybe not from day 1, I have no idea).

  • Gonzo

    Time flies. I can’t believe this is Warren’s third go around in AAA.

    • Rob G

      And he hasn’t gotten better at any time. That’s probably a starter right now on the 2014 team. With a decent shot, he could be league average enough to stick.

      • Laz

        His ceiling is as a backend starter. I wouldn’t expect him to eat up AAA hitters. He hasn’t struggled which is good.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t know how likely he is to be a 2014 SP to open the season. Certainly a legitimate option, but as of today I’d have CC, Nova, Phelps, Pineda, and Marshall ahead of him, personally, with the expectation that they probably pick up at least one veteran and Banuelos/Turley aren’t far behind.

        Personally I would think he has a better shot in the long-man role.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    Hoping for Nuno and Adams to have good years here. I feel like both have potential to be successful in the majors. Nuno was lighting up the minors last year and never really got any attention.

    Is Mustelier really so awful in the field that he can’t succeed in the majors anywhere other than DH? He seems to put up numbers that demonstrate MLB capability

    • Rob G

      Nuno is definitely interesting. Crazy he could be replacing Andy next year.

      They should play Ronnie though, especially with the number of lefty bats. If his bat is as good as the minors suggest his ceiling, that’s as much contribution as Teixeira’s noodle. If he’s worse, then the damage is limited.

      • MannyGeee

        Teixeira’s noodle? He hits the ball a ton, and while not at the level he did in his prime years (who not named Jeter really does though), I would bet my dog that he can still outhit Future Hall of Famer Ronnier Mustieller.

        For real, I would wager my canine companion on it. He’s kind of a dick, but still… he’s my dog

        • jjyank

          Heh, this. Tex has declined from greatness, but he’s still well above average. Even with the continued decline and the injuries last year, he still put up a 116 wRC+.

          • Ted Nelson

            And especially still hits from the right side. I really believe that the too many lefties thing is overblown.

        • Preston

          I don’t get the FHOFRM love, at age 27 a fat toad without a position posted a wRC+ of 128 in 385 AB’s at AAA and everybody thinks we have to find him a spot on the big league team. A 23 yo Corban Joseph posts a wRC+ of 134 in 386 AB’s while playing a solid 2B and he’s an afterthought.

          • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

            What is “FHOFRM”

            • Preston

              Future Hall of Famer Ronnier Mustelier

      • Ted Nelson

        Nuno certainly could replace Pettitte, but I don’t know that it’s particularly likely.

        • Preston

          Scouts always say not to trust older soft tossing lefties numbers in the minors.

    • Laz

      I would like to see Mustelier get some time. They need a rhof, and he could line up at DH vs lhp, and when Hafner goes down.

    • Ted Nelson

      He’s got to be able to hit MLB pitching, too, which I think is standing in his way as much as the glove.

      • W.B. Mason Williams

        Well he shows all the signs of being capable at AAA. With his numbers you’d think he’d at least get a cup of coffee at some point.

        • Ted Nelson

          A lot of guys, especially veteran guys, who mash in AAA can’t hit MLB pitching. Dan Johnson is one example. JoVa, Miranda, and Shelley Duncan are other examples. Certainly if those guys were good defensive SS or C or CF their offense might be perfectly fine at the MLB level, but I’m saying that it’s the combination of glove and bat rather than just the glove. If they crushed MLB Ps, they’d be made DHs or a team would live with their D the way they do with some statues around MLB. I’m not saying Mustelier is definitely a AAAA player, but I think there’s a good chance he is.

          I haven’t seen him play more than once or twice, but you have to consider how he put up his numbers. There’s a big talent gap between AAA and MLB Ps. If he’s consistently hitting pitches he will hardly ever see in MLB and consistently getting fooled by the types that he will, he might not have earned anything. If not, maybe he does deserve a shot. Since he hasn’t gotten a shot yet, I can’t really conclude that the Yankees are impressed. Of course, he’s had less than a season in AAA so maybe his shot is coming soon.

          He hits AAA Ps worse than a Juan Miranda or Dan Johnson, though better than a JoVa. It’s also only his first go round in AAA and he can at least fake a few positions, so maybe he’s better than those guys. We’ll have to see.

        • Chein Ming’s Wang

          Love the Nickname

  • Joe

    Triple A is now a 25 man roster dating back to last year. Someone else will be able to make it.

  • Rob G

    I’m hoping Ronnie Mustelier makes the big club as the righty bat for the infield and outfield corners. Spread him around and if he hits enough to stick he could earn more ABs.

    • MannyGeee

      He’s in a long line of guys who will never stick on this team because their glove doesnt warrant the roster spot.

      Jorge Vazquez casts a pox upon thee, from all the way out in Japan… And Shelly Duncan also says hello.

      • Ted Nelson

        If those guys could hit MLB Ping, I don’t think their gloves would be as big a deal.

        That’s most likely the category Mustelier falls into, but I’m not completely writing him off yet.

  • Vern Sneaker

    Little if any proven help there is what strikes me. May the Good Health God smile upon us this year!

    • Jim Is Bored

      If you’re looking for proven help in AAA, you’re not going to find it very often.

      • Ted Nelson

        And when you do, you’re going to find a line of angry fans whining that the Yankees never give their prospects a chance.

        I’m pretty comforable with that group, plus they’ll probably pick up a vet or two before opening day. Bobby Wilson and Dan Johnson are solid AAA/AAAA vets. Adams, CoJo, and Romine are solid prospects who are basically MLB ready (if healthy for Adams and Romine). The depth in the OF gives you a good shot at least one guy can step up. Warren is your 7th SP, and I think Whitley or Warren or whoever else will be a fine BP fill-in candidate.

  • Coming To America

    I’m excited to see the play of:

    Adams at 3rd because of A-Rod’s injury/further breakdown/suspension/forced retirement.

    CoJo at 2nd due to the pending free agency of Cano. If Joseph looks like the can handle it, maybe the Yanks will be less likely to give Cano a Scott Boras special.

    Nuno and Marshall, as well as Pienda and Banuelos, because of the age of Pettitte and Kuroda, as well as the impending FA of Hughes. Even if you fugure one of the 3 pending FA returns and Nova/Phelps takes a spot, you’ll still need 2 starters plus depth. The development and health of the guys I mentioned will go a long way in keeping the Yanks from hitting the FA market looking for a starter. When you consider what an Anibal Sanchez gets on the open market, you have to hope your farm system can produce starters.

    The Almonte/Mesa group are important because of Granderson’s free agency, as well as the pressure that the AA guys will put on them.

    • Laz

      Yankees typically have hard time handing out starting jobs at start of year. They wait for injuries (cano, gardner).

      • Ted Nelson

        I would say that they build depth and make a young guy earn it more than wait for injury. If you sign a Womack, you have him and Cano so you can let the transition happen naturally. If you don’t, you just have Cano with a bench guy as depth so if he struggles you’re scrambling. I don’t think many people knew Gardner would earn that spot over Melky.

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    I am going to enjoy the new stadium. I’ll post pictures at the opening weekend.

  • Jersey Joe

    I have to think that with the crowded OF, someone is going to get cut loose. I’m not sure what value they could fetch, but as part of a midseason package, Zolio Almonte could make for a good throw-in.

    I’m hoping Thomas Neal stays on, i like what he has to offer.

    • Laz

      I’d like to see Neal, just because of his strong AA numbers. I don’t see Zoilo as anything more than a 4th ofer, but if they can get value they should trade.

  • John C

    I’m also curious to see Adonis Garcia in ST. Apparently, his stock in the system rose with a great showing in winter ball, especially in the power department.

    • Laz

      27 YO though.

  • Coolerking101

    Other than going by the fact he was a reliever in the AFL, is there any source out there that has indicated Dellin Betances will be a reliever this year?

    • LK

      I think it’s the AFL thing and the fact that he was so awful starting last year. I could see him getting one more shot though.

      • Preston

        I think he probably will get a shot at starting in the beginning of the year. But you have to imagine he’s on a very short leash.

        • Manny’s BanWagon (formerly Andy Pettitte’s Fibula)

          He was absolutely brutal as a starter last year even after they demoted him to Trenton so while I guess it’s not impossible for him to become a solid starter, given his results and the scouting reports which for years has projected him as a reliever, you’d have to think the ship has almost sailed on him realistically developing into a quality starter.

          On the other hand, if he can gain some semblance of control over even 1 pitch, he could move quickly as a reliever.

    • Ted Nelson

      I was wondering the same.

  • Mike K

    Just to nitpick a little, it won’t be Shaeffer Hall’s first time in AAA. He got promoted for 1 start in 2011.

  • ClusterDuck

    What’s the old saying.

    Adams, Romine and pray for rain.

    The point is I don’t much else at AAA that has a chance to help the Yanks this year.

    Would like to see Montgomery start out in AAA. He too has a chance to help the Yanks this year.