The Up & Down Arms [2015 Season Review]

Davies. (Presswire)
Davies. (Presswire)

The big league roster portion of our 2015 Season Review series comes to an end today. All that’s left are the spare pitchers who made cameos with the Yankees this summer. These guys were on the bullpen shuttle but weren’t regulars, if you know what I mean. They came up to the big leagues once or maybe twice in 2015 and that was it. The average number of big league innings thrown by the players in this post this season: four. Let’s get to it.

Danny Burawa

The Yankees selected Burawa, a Long Island kid, out of St. John’s in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. He went unselected in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft, but the Yankees didn’t want to risk it again last offseason, so he was added to the 40-man roster. The Yankees saw him as part of that pipeline of power arms they stashed in Triple-A.

Burawa, 26, started the season in the Triple-A Scranton bullpen. He was called up to MLB for the first time in late-June and appeared in one game, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Tigers. Burawa was sent back to Triple-A the next day, demoted to Double-A a month later, then in mid-August he was claimed off waivers by the Braves after being designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Garrett Jones, who re-signed with the Yankees following Dustin Ackley‘s injury.

All told, Burawa had a 2.55 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 49.1 Triple-A innings with the Yankees this year. He was called up by the Braves in September and saw a fair amount of work, allowing five runs in 12.1 innings. Burawa has nasty raw stuff — PitchFX says his fastball averaged 94.9 mph and his slider 85.4 mph — but his lack of control always held him back.

Kyle Davies

The 32-year-old Davies was signed last offseason to be the designated Triple-A veteran innings eater. He spent the entire season in the RailRiders rotation aside from one MLB appearance, when he gave the Yankees 2.1 scoreless innings of long relief on April 12th. That was the ESPN Sunday Night Game when the Bombers scored seven runs against Clay Buchholz in the first inning. You remember that.

That was actually Davies’ first appearance of the season. (The Triple-A season started April 9th.) The Yankees designated him for assignment the next day, he accepted the outright assignment, and he spent the rest of the season soaking up innings for the RailRiders. Davies had a 3.30 ERA (3.35 FIP) in 152.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton. He was the first pitcher to throw 140+ innings for the RailRiders since Ramon Ortiz (169.1) and Adam Warren (152.2) in 2012. Davies is now a free agent.

Jose DePaula

Last winter the Yankees signed DePaula to a Major League contract, which was curious because he had been hampered by injuries in recent years and didn’t have a whole lot of experience above Single-A. They saw something they liked though, so they gave him a split contract worth $510,000 in the big leagues and $175,000 in the minors.

DePaula, 27, came down with a shoulder problem in Spring Training and did not make his regular season debut until early-June. He made three starts with Triple-A Scranton, then was called up in mid-June for long relief work. On June 21st, the same day Burawa made his debut, DePaula made his big league debut and allowed one run in 3.1 mop-up innings against the Tigers.

Back to Triple-A went DePaula (and Burawa) the next day. DePaula made three more starts with Triple-A Scranton before coming down with another shoulder problem, one that ended his season. He finished the year with 5.20 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 27.2 Triple-A innings plus the one MLB appearance. The Yankees designated DePaula for assignment in late-June to clear a 40-man spot for Ivan Nova. He became a minor league free agent after the season.

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Jacob Lindgren

Unlike most of the other players in this post, Lindgren came into the season as a well-regarded prospect. He was New York’s top draft pick (55th overall) in the 2014 draft and he zoomed through the system as a college reliever. Lindgren pitched at four levels in 2014 and nearly made the Yankees out of Spring Training this season. They instead sent him to Triple-A for more fine tuning.

After 15 appearances with the RailRiders, the Yankees called Lindgren up in late-May and showed they were planning to stick with him. When they needed to clear a roster spot a few days later, they designated David Carpenter for assignment when they could have easily sent Lindgren back to Triple-A. I guess that was part of the team’s sudden youth movement this past season.

Lindgren, 22, appeared in seven games with the Yankees and allowed four runs on five hits and four walks, including three homers. He struck out eight. The team sent him back to Triple-A in mid-June because they desperately needed a fresh long reliever, and soon thereafter Lindgren told the trainers he’d been pitching with some elbow pain. He had season-ending surgery a few days later to remove a bone spur from his elbow.

All told, Lindgren had a 1.23 ERA (1.88 FIP) in 22 Triple-A innings plus a 5.14 ERA (8.13 FIP) in seven MLB innings this past season. He’s expected to be ready in time for Spring Training — there was some thought he’d be ready to pitch in September, but the team decided not to rush it — and again figures to compete for a bullpen spot. Even if Lindgren doesn’t win a big league job in camp, I’m sure we’ll see him at some point in 2016.

Diego Moreno

The Yankees originally acquired the 28-year-old Moreno from the Pirates in the A.J. Burnett trade a few years ago. He’s spent the last few seasons in the farm system either pitching or going through the Tommy John surgery ordeal. Moreno started 2015 in the Triple-A bullpen and stayed there until late-June, when he was called up to MLB for the first time. He appeared in two games (two runs in two innings) before being sent back down.

Moreno returned to the RailRiders soon thereafter but did get a second call up in late-July. The Rangers knocked Chris Capuano out of the game in the first inning on July 28th, then Moreno came in and chucked 5.1 scoreless and hitless innings to earn his first MLB win.

Rather than be sent right back to Triple-A for a fresh arm, the performance earned Moreno some more time with the big league team. He allowed four runs in three innings against the White Sox four days later, and a few days after that he landed on the 15-day DL. Moreno later had season-ending surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

In 53.2 innings with the RailRiders, Moreno had a 2.18 ERA (2.73 FIP) this year. He also allowed six runs in 10.1 big league innings. The Yankees dropped Moreno from the 40-man roster after the season and he became a minor league free agent.

James Pazos

People can’t help but overreact to Spring Training stats, I’m guilty of it too, so when Pazos allowed two hits in 4.1 innings during Grapefruit League play, there was some thought he could crack the Opening Day roster. That didn’t happen. He actually suffered an undisclosed injury at the end of camp and started the season on the shelf.

Pazos. (Presswire)
Pazos. (Presswire)

Pazos, 24, was the team’s 13th round pick in the 2012 draft. Once healthy, he joined Double-A Trenton in late-May, stayed there for a six-game tune-up, then was promoted to Triple-A Scranton. He remained there until being called up to the big leagues for the first time on September 1st. Pazos was Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason, so the Yankees got a head start on things and added him to the 40-man roster in September.

Joe Girardi used Pazos fairly regularly in September — he appeared in eleven of the team’s final 28 games — but he was limited almost exclusively to left-on-left matchup work. Pazos threw five scoreless innings in pinstripes and stranded four of five inherited runners. Left-handed batters did go 3-for-11 (.273) with one walk and one strikeout against him though. Not too great.

Pazos finished the season with a 1.09 ERA (2.46 FIP) in 33 Triple-A innings plus those five MLB innings. He was on the wildcard game roster but didn’t pitch in the game. As a hard-throwing lefty — PitchFX says his fastball averaged a healthy 93.2 mph in September — it’s easy to understand why the Yankees added Pazos to the 40-man roster. We’ll see him plenty next summer, I reckon.

Jose Ramirez

The 25-year-old Ramirez has been on the prospect radar an awfully long time. He’s always had explosive stuff but injury problems and generally unreliable command never allowed him to really break through. I thought there was a chance Ramirez would make the team out of Spring Training, but that didn’t happen (seven runs in 8.2 Grapefruit League innings didn’t help his case) and he started the season in Triple-A.

Ramirez spent some time as the RailRiders’ closer and was called up to the big leagues for the first time this year in mid-May. He got hammered by the Royals on May 15th (four runs in one inning) and was sent right back down. Ramirez was called up again in mid-June, allowed one run in two innings across two appearances, then was sent back down once again. The Yankees traded him to the Mariners with Ramon Flores for Ackley at the deadline.

Seattle called Ramirez up when rosters expanded in September and he got hammered again (nine runs in 4.2 innings). The stuff is electric, though in an admittedly small sample size (17.2 innings), he hasn’t come close to positive results (20 runs!). Ramirez had a 2.90 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 49.2 innings for the RailRiders this summer. He’ll be out of minor league options next year and the Yankees simply wouldn’t have a spot for him in the bullpen. I’m sure that factored into the decision to trade him.

Sergio Santos

Santos, 32, has had a pretty long and interesting career. He was a first round pick (27th overall in 2002) as a shortstop, developed into a very good prospect (Baseball America ranked him No. 37 on their 2004 top 100 list), was traded in a deal that involved Troy Glaus and Orlando Hudson in 2005, converted to pitching when he stopped hitting in 2009, then became a 30-save guy with the White Sox. How about that?

The Yankees picked Santos up off the scrap heap in mid-June after the Dodgers cut him loose and he never went to Triple-A. He immediately joined the big league team. Santos pitched in two games with the Yankees: he allowed two runs in two innings against the Orioles on June 13th, then he inherited a bases loaded, no outs jam against the Marlins on June 15th and escaped without allowing a run.

Four days later Santos was placed on the 15-day DL with right elbow inflammation. A few days after that he underwent Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Santos remained on the MLB DL the rest of the season and collected a big league paycheck, so good for him. He elected free agency after being dropped from the 40-man roster after the season.

Matt Tracy

The Yankees drafted Tracy in the 24th round of the 2011 draft and he was a sleeper prospect for a little while there, but he never did take that next step forward in his development. He still reached the big leagues though. On April 11th, the day after the 19-inning marathon loss to the Red Sox, Tracy was called up to the show for the first time to give the Yankees a fresh long arm.

Tracy, 27, allowed three unearned runs in two innings against Boston that afternoon. The Yankees designated him for assignment the next day — clearing a 40-man spot for Davies — and the Marlins claimed him off waivers. Four days later, the Yankees re-claimed him on waivers when Miami tried to drop him from the 40-man roster. Tracy was then optioned to Triple-A Scranton.

On April 26th, after the call-up and waivers shenanigans, Tracy finally made his season debut with Triple-A Scranton. He spent the summer bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and Double-A — he went wherever an extra arm was needed, basically — and was unceremoniously outrighted off the 40-man roster in mid-June. No one claimed him on waivers that time.

Tracy finished the 2015 season with a 3.79 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 90.1 minor league innings. He had just the one brief stint in the big leagues. As far as I know Tracy remains in the organization, and if so, he figures to again do the Double-A and Triple-A shuttle thing in 2016.

* * *

And finally, a special shout-out goes out to right-hander Joel De La Cruz, who was called up in April but didn’t appear in a game. He was called up on April 13th to replace Davies, sat in the bullpen for two days before being optioned back to Triple-A, then was outrighted off the 40-man roster a few days after that. That is the extent of his big league service.

De La Cruz, 26, is most notable for being the guy Brian Cashman tried to trade for Alfonso Soriano two years ago before ownership jumped in and dealt Corey Black. De La Cruz had a 3.31 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 84.1 innings split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this summer. He became a minor league free agent after the season and recently signed a minor league deal with the Braves. De La Cruz didn’t get to pitch during his time with the Yankees, but hey, two days of big league pay plus health care for life is pretty cool.

Braves claim Danny Burawa off waivers from Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Braves have claimed right-hander Danny Burawa off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. He’s been assigned to their Triple-A affiliate. New York designated Burawa for assignment a few days ago when they re-signed Garrett Jones following Dustin Ackley‘s injury.

Burawa, 26, is a local kid from Long Island who was the team’s 12th round pick in the 2010 draft out of St. John’s. He has vicious stuff, sitting mid-to-high-90s with a knockout slider, but control has always been an issue. Burawa has a 3.51 ERA with a 22.6 K% and an 11.3 BB% in 276.2 career innings in the minors.

The Yankees added Burawa to the 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and he made his big league debut earlier this season, allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning. The club is loaded with righty relievers, so Burawa should have a much greater opportunity in Atlanta, where they have guys in the bullpen even I’ve never heard of.

Yankees option Burawa and DePaula, planning to call up Moreno and Rumbelow

Rumblin' Rumbelow. (Presswire)
Rumblin’ Rumbelow. (Presswire)

Following this afternoon’s game, the Yankees announced they have optioned righty Danny Burawa and lefty Jose DePaula to Triple-A Scranton. Both made their MLB debuts this afternoon and, uh, they did not go well. The team says they anticipate calling up righties Diego Moreno and Nick Rumbelow on Monday.

Moreno, 28, was originally acquired in the A.J. Burnett trade with the Pirates a few years ago. He has a 2.27 ERA (2.61 FIP) with decent strikeout (21.2%) and walk (5.8%) rates in 35.2 innings with the RailRiders this season. Moreno is a classic fastball/slider reliever and the Yankees seem to like him. Brian Cashman has mentioned him as a call-up candidate a few times the last two years.

The 23-year-old Rumbelow was New York’s seventh round pick in 2013 — he’ll be the first player from their 2013 draft class to reach MLB — and he has a 3.31 ERA (2.58 FIP) in 35.1 Triple-A innings this year. His strikeout (28.7%) and walk (4.9%) rates are good, though he fanned more batters (34.1%) while climbing from Low-A to Triple-A last year. Rumbelow is a fastball/curveball guy.

Neither Moreno nor Rumbelow is on the 40-man roster but that’s not much of a problem. The Yankees currently have one open 40-man spot and they say they’ll transfer Sergio Santos (elbow) to the 60-day DL to clear the other spot. They can can slide Jacob Lindgren (elbow) to the 60-day DL when Ivan Nova is ready to return, whenever that is. Probably sometime within the next few days.

Game 69: Tanaka for the Sweep

No bat today, Masahiro. (Rob Foldy/Getty)
No bat today, Masahiro. (Rob Foldy/Getty)

This homestand is going really well so far. The Yankees have own all four games by the combined scored of 32-10. They’ve allowed three runs or fewer in five of their last seven games, which is sorta flying under the radar. In one of the other games they allowed just four runs. They’re pitching well and hitting well right. Times are good.

Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound with an extra day of rest this afternoon and he has been simply outstanding of late. Four runs in 21 innings since coming off the DL and five runs in his last 34.1 innings overall. Thirty-five strikeouts and two walks too. No better guy to have on the mound when you’re looking for a sweep. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. LF Chris Young
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. 3B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s a lovely afternoon in New York. Great day for baseball. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and will air on YES locally and MLB Network regionally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Mason Williams (shoulder) has been placed on the 15-day DL. An MRI showed no structural damage, just inflammation. Joe Girardi said they don’t want to rush him … Sergio Santos (elbow) needs Tommy John surgery. Womp womp. Thanks for getting out of that bases loaded jam the other day, Serg.

Roster Moves: Bryan Mitchell was send down to Triple-A Scranton and both Danny Burawa and Ramon Flores were called up, the Yankees announced. Whenever he gets into a game, Burawa will be the seventh Yankee to make his MLB debut. It’s not even July yet!

Minor League Notes: Assignments, Spring Reports, Judge, International Spending

Pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)
The new pace of play clocks are up at PNC Field in Scranton. (RailRiders)

The Yankees open the 2015 regular season tomorrow, and a few days later the minor league season will get underway as well. Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, High-A Tampa, and Low-A Charleston all begin their seasons this coming Thursday. Here are some minor league notes to hold you over until then.

Opening Day assignments for top prospects

The full minor league rosters have not yet been released and won’t be a few days, though Josh Norris was able to get his hands on Opening Day assignments for most of the Yankees’ top prospects. The list:

Norris says the assignments could change slightly before the start of the season, but for the most part they’re set. Sanchez is going back to the Thunder to continue working on his defense with coaches and ex-catchers Michel Hernandez and P.J. Pilittere, which I don’t love, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I assume Avelino, Katoh, and Mateo will rotate between second, short, and DH like Avelino, Katoh, and Wade did last year before Avelino got hurt. I’m little surprised Mateo is going to Charleston — he’s played only games in 15 rookie ball, that’s it — but the Yankees have never been shy about aggressively promoting their best teenage players. Otherwise these assignments are fairly straight forward. No major surprises.

Notes from the backfields in Tampa

Both Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Jeff Moore (no subs. req’d) recently posted a collection of notes after watching minor league games on the backfields all around Florida. Law got a look at Mateo, saying he likes “how well he keeps his hands inside the ball” and added he “liked the potential of the hit tool but was hoping to see more polish on both sides of the ball.” The polish will come. It’s only Spring Training and Mateo is still just a 19-year-old kid.

Meanwhile, Moore saw Judge, Bird, and RHP Bryan Mitchell. “What’s impressive is (Judge) seems to get a little better each time I see him. The at-bats have gotten tougher and more advanced, with a better plan each time out,” wrote Moore. He also said he sees Bird as “a potential regular first baseman” and his “power is very real, more real than he gets credit for.” As for Mitchell, Moore says his fastball/curveball combination “screams reliever, and possibly a darn good one.”

Law still ranks Judge 23rd in latest Top 50 Prospects list

Last week, Law released an updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball (subs. req’d). There are only very minor changes from his top 100 list in February, with the most notable being the addition of Red Sox IF Yoan Moncada, who slots in at No. 16. Even with Moncada joining the list, Judge stays in the same No. 23 spot because he jumped over Rockies RHP Jon Gray, who hasn’t looked like himself this spring. Judge remains the third outfielder on the list behind Twins OF Byron Buxton and Cubs OF Jorge Soler. Law is the high man on Judge based on all this spring’s other top 100 lists. That’s cool with me.

Yankees spent $17.83M on international players in 2014

According to Ben Badler, the Yankees spent a ridiculous $17.83M on international prospects last year, easily the most in baseball. They spent more than the number two (Rays, $6.11M), three (Red Sox, $5.63M), and four (Astros, $5.42M) teams combined and more than the bottom ten teams combined ($16.9575M). Just to be clear, this is for the 2014 calendar year, not the 2014-15 signing period.

The Yankees handed out three of the five largest, six of the 14 largest, and 12 of the 40 largest signing bonuses to international prospects during the 2014 calendar year, according to Badler. We still don’t have a final number for the total bonuses the Yankees handed out during the 2014-15 signing period, but the total investment is clearly going to be north of $30M between bonuses and penalties. Most of that $17.83M last year was spent on July 2nd, the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. Now the Yankees just have to turn these kids into big leaguers and tradeable prospects.

Yankees release nine more minor leaguers

The Yankees have released seven more minor leaguers according to Matt Eddy: OF Yeicok Calderon, RHP Tim Giel, OF Robert Hernandez, RHP Stefan Lopez, RHP Matt Noteware, 1B Dalton Smith, and IF Graham Ramos. Dan Pfeiffer says OF Adonis Garcia was released as well, and OF Adam Silva announced on Facebook he was also released.

First things first: no more Yeicokshots!, sadly. Hernandez was signed in January, so his stint with the organization didn’t last long. Lopez led NCAA in saves in 2012 and had some potential, but he fell in love with his fastball so much in college that he lost all feel for his slider and became a one-pitch guy. The Yankees signed Giel, Noteware, and Ramos as undrafted free agents within the last two years to help fill out minor league rosters. That’s about it.

Old Timers’ Game coming to Triple-A Scranton

And finally, the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre franchise is holding an Old Timers’ Game on June 21st, reports Donnie Collins. The event will raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. “I expect the ballpark to be sold out — and standing room only. That’s the goal,” said RailRiders’ co-managing partner to Grant Cagle to Collins. A bunch of ex-Yankees will be in attendance — not sure who, exactly — to play in the Old Timers’ Game and/or mingle with fans during a meet-and-greet and autograph session. That should be fun.

Depth Arms: Miscellaneous 40-Man Roster Pitchers [2015 Season Preview]

The Yankees remade their bullpen this offseason — assuming Adam Warren is the fifth starter, the only player in the 2014 Opening Day bullpen projected to be in the 2015 Opening Day bullpen is Dellin Betances — and five of the seven spots are pretty well set. Betances and Andrew Miller will be the late inning guys, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson will be the middle inning guys, and Esmil Rogers figures to be the swingman.

That leaves two spots open and thus far the Yankees have not tipped their hand in Spring Training. There are no obvious favorites for those spots. The club has a bunch of options, both 40-man roster guys and non-40-man roster guys, and they can go in any number of directions. Two long men, two one-inning guys, two lefties, two righties, one of each, whatever. The depth is there and the Yankees will use all of it this year. That’s baseball. The pitching staff has to be fluid. Here are the team’s 40-man depth arms heading into the regular season.

Burawa. (Presswire)
Burawa. (Presswire)

Danny Burawa: Stuff, Not Strikes

Last winter the 26-year-old Burawa went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft. The Yankees didn’t roll the dice again. They added Burawa, a Long Island kid, to the 40-man roster in November despite his control problems because his stuff is vicious. He sits mid-to-high-90s with his running fastball and mid-to-upper-80s with his slider, and his crossfire delivery adds deception. Burawa has a great, great arm.

The problem is strikes, as I mentioned. Burawa walked 11.3% of batters faced last year and had to be demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton at midseason. His career walk rate in the minors is 11.1%. The Yankees have three option years to help Burawa harness his stuff, and if that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to see him as anything more than an up-and-down arm. His stuff is so good the team will be patient though.

Jose DePaula: Lefty Long Man

The Yankees surprisingly signed DePaula to a one-year contract this offseason, adding him to the 40-man roster even though he has zero MLB experience and threw only 130 innings from 2012-14 due to oblique and shoulder issues. His shoulder started acting up again this spring — DePaula went for an MRI a week ago and everything came back clean, though it has limited him to mostly bullpens — which took him out of the running for a Opening Day roster spot. DePaula, 27, is a generic low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, mid-70s curveball strike-throwing lefty. He’ll work as a starter in Triple-A to start the year and could emerge as a spot starter or long relief option at some point this summer.

Chris Martin: Tall Up & Down Righty

Martin, 28, was the final link in a fringe reliever transaction chain. Preston Claiborne was designated for assignment to clear a spot for Gonzalez Germen, who was acquired from the Mets. Germen was then designated for assignment when the Yankees acquired Martin from the Rockies. New York acquired Germen because they felt he was better than Claiborne, and then they acquired Martin because they felt he was better than Germen.

Martin is basically the model Yankees reliever based on the team’s ostensible preferences. He’s super tall (listed at 6-foot-8), throws hard (PitchFX had him averaging 94.6 mph in 2014), and has a history of striking guys out (career 24.9 K% in Triple-A). His back story is pretty interesting too. Like Claiborne before him, Martin is slated to fill an up-and-down role this year, riding the bus back and forth between Triple-A and MLB whenever a fresh arm is needed. He’s not exactly a young prospect, so I’m not sure how much room for improvement there is.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell: Seventh Starter?

The fifth starter competition was basically a two-horse race between Warren and Rogers, with Mitchell as one of the guys on the periphery of the competition. The Yankees always seemed intent on sending him to Triple-A for more refinement, which makes sense at this point of his career. Mitchell has very good stuff, but he will turn only 24 next month and has only 51.2 career innings above Double-A. He’s also prone to bouts of wildness.

There’s a chance — albeit a small one — Mitchell can be the 2015 version of 2014 Shane Greene, coming up at midseason to solidify the rotation. He’s ahead of where Greene was at age 24 developmentally, though he still needs to iron out his control after walking 10% of batters faced between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The thin starting pitching depth chart means Mitchell may be pushed into MLB action this year, though if you gave the Yankees a truth serum, I think they’d admit they’d like him to get a full year in Triple-A before being a September call-up.

Branden Pinder: Bullpen Sleeper

The Yankees like Pinder enough to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this past winter even though a groin injury limited him to 39.1 innings last year, mostly at Double-A and Triple-A. The 26-year-old Pinder is more of a high probability guy than a high upside guy despite sitting low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and low-80s with his slider. Pinder throws a ton of strikes (5.9 BB% in 2014) and that about sums him up. He’s a fastball/slider reliever who won’t walk the park. Pinder has already been optioned to Triple-A Scranton, though I definitely expect him to get called up at some point. He has sneaky staying power, the kind of guy who gets called up and before you know it, he’s making his 40th appearance of the season.

Jose Ramirez: The Perpetual Tease

So, will this be the year Ramirez stays healthy? The 25-year-old has tremendous stuff and has for years, but he’s can’t stay on the field and it’s been an issue his entire career. Last year a lat strain limited him to 22.1 innings between Triple-A and MLB. When he’s actually on the mound, Ramirez has filthy stuff, sitting mid-90s with his fastball and getting swings and misses with both his slider and changeup, so the potential to be an impact reliever exists. He just can’t stay healthy. Ramirez made his big league debut last summer and figures to see the Bronx again this year. Until he manages to get through a full season in one piece, he’s going to continue to be a tease.

(Presswire)
Shreve. (Presswire)

Chasen Shreve: The Third Lefty?

Out of all the players in this post, Shreve may have been given the biggest opportunity to win a bullpen job in Spring Training. He leads full-time Yankees’ relievers in Grapefruit League innings and has faced a ton of righties as the team gave him a chance to show he can be more than a lefty specialist. Camp hasn’t gone well (seven runs in eight innings) and that may earn Shreve a trip to Triple-A to start the year, but the Yankees have made it pretty clear they want him in MLB at some point.

Shreve, 24, had an excellent minor league season with the Braves last year, pitching to a 2.67 ERA (1.92 FIP) with 35.5 K% and 4.9 BB% in 64 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He changed his approach last year and decided to simply air it out each pitch, which led to all that success last year. Shreve now sits in the low-90s and has both a slider and a promising split-changeup hybrid, which suggests he can be more than a lefty specialist. There’s still a chance Shreve will make the Opening Day roster, but, even if he doesn’t, I’m certain we’ll see him in the Bronx this year, sooner rather than later.

Chase Whitley: Depth & Versatility

If the fifth starter’s race was purely Spring Training performance based, Whitley probably would be considered the frontrunner for the job. He’s allowed just one run in eleven innings and has been efficient, though he hasn’t faced the best competition either. Whitley had a nice little run as a starter last season before the wheels fell off, which wasn’t entirely unexpected since he is a career reliever who converted to a starter last season. He has three pitches though, so the Yankees are keeping him stretched out because why not?

Whitley, 25, might have the best chance to make the Opening Day roster out of anyone in this post. He could assume something similar to the old David Phelps role, working one inning or four innings at a time, depending what the team needs that night. Rogers could fill that role as well, though the Yankees have indicated they would like to take it easy on their starters early in the season, so carrying two multi-inning bullpeners could make sense. Either way, we’ll see Whitley in MLB this season at some point. I’m sure of it.

Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 26-31

Over these next two weeks, we’re going to rank and analyze every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — based on their short and long-term importance to the team — and you’re going to disagree with our rankings. We’ve already covered Nos. 32-40.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Like every other team, the Yankees have several spots on their 40-man roster dedicated to prospects who may or may not provide immediate help. Those are the players who have been protected from the Rule 5 Draft despite not yet being MLB ready. Not all of them are top prospects, mind you, but they are young players with some projected future utility the club didn’t want to risk losing.

Our 40-man roster ranking series continues today with Nos. 26-31, spots that feature a collection of those young prospects who might be able to help the Yankees in some capacity this coming season. But, more than anything, they’re looked at as potential future pieces down the road. Guys who can help more in 2016 or 2017 than 2015. To the next set of rankings …

No. 31: Danny Burawa

2015 Role: An up-and-down bullpen arm who is behind several others on the call-up depth chart. Burawa was passed over in last year’s Rule 5 Draft and actually had to be briefly demoted to Double-A Trenton last year after a rough start to the season with Triple-A Scranton (5.95 ERA and 3.52 FIP). He’s ticketed for a return to the RailRiders to start 2015.

Long-Term Role: Burawa, 26, has some of the nastiest stuff in the organization. His fastball regularly sits in the upper-90s with run in on righties, and his hard mid-to-upper-80s slider is a swing-and-miss pitch at its best. He’ll also throw a changeup but it isn’t a key pitch for him out of the bullpen. Burawa is held back by his below-average control — 5.17 BB/9 and 13.2 BB% in Double-A and Triple-A from 2013-14 — and may never be a late-inning reliever because of that, though he has vicious stuff and can be a factor in middle relief for multiple years down the road.

No. 30: Branden Pinder

2015 Role: Another up-and-down bullpen arm who I think is ahead of Burawa on the depth chart. The soon-to-be 26-year-old Pinder was added to the 40-man this offseason, his first year of Rule 5 Draft eligibility, and took a nice step forward with his control last summer, going from a 9.0 BB% from 2012-13 to a 5.9 BB% in 2014. He’s another guy who will return to Triple-A Scranton to start the year, though I expect to see him in MLB at some point in 2015. Before September call-ups, I mean.

Long-Term Role: Pinder doesn’t have the same overwhelming stuff as Burawa but he isn’t going out there with a fastball you can catch with your teeth either. He sits 93-95 mph with his four-seamer and is able to vary the break on his low-80s slider, sometimes throwing a short slider (almost like a cutter) and other times throwing a sweepy slider that frisbees out of the zone. It’s a classic boring middle relief profile but Pinder is a very high-probability future big leaguer.

No. 29: Jose Ramirez

2015 Role: Yet another up-and-down bullpen arm, though this one has MLB experience. Ramirez made his big league debut last season (5.40 ERA and 6.43 FIP in ten whole innings) before going back to Triple-A and, unfortunately, getting hurt. The getting hurt part has become an annual thing for him. Ramirez will compete for the last bullpen spot in camp, and if he doesn’t win it, he’ll return to Triple-A and be among the first called up when a fresh arm is inevitably needed.

Long-Term Role: Ramirez is two years younger than Burawa, one year younger than Pinder, and out-stuffs both of them. He has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball with movement, a sharp slider, and a knockout changeup he uses against both lefties and righties. On his absolute best days, Ramirez goes to the mound with three swing-and-miss pitches. The stuff is there for future late-inning work.

The only question is whether Ramirez will stay healthy enough to reach that ceiling. The Yankees moved him to the bullpen full-time last year because he kept getting hurt as a starter — arm injuries too, shoulder and elbow — and he still got hurt as a reliever. Ramirez seems very much like a “let’s get something out of him before his arm gives out completely” type of pitcher, and whatever they get out of him could be very good based on the quality of his stuff.

No. 28: Jose Pirela

Pirela. (Presswire)
Pirela. (Presswire)

2015 Role: Versatile utility player who will be first in line for a bench spot if someone gets hurt in Spring Training. (As I said yesterday, I don’t think the Yankees are going to cut Brendan Ryan just because.) Pirela is the very poor man’s Martin Prado — he has a contact-oriented swing and can play second base and left field. (Prado was already a fourth year big leaguer by time he was Pirela’s age (25), hence the very poor man’s part.)

Pirela has torn up Double-A and Triple-A the last three seasons — .290/.353/.432 (118 wRC+) with a 7.9% walk rate and a 12.5% strikeout rate — and his versatility gives the Yankees some options. He can step in to help out in case of injury, back up multiple positions, or be the light half of a platoon. It’s the kind of player just about every manager loves to have … and fans tend to overrate. I don’t know why, but versatility has that effect.

Long-Term Role: Despite the minor league numbers, I’m not sold on Pirela as an everyday player at the big league level — I think he’s more likely to be another Eduardo Nunez than Prado lite — but he’s useful and flexible. There is plenty of room for a guy like that on the bench and in the organization in both 2015 and for years to come. In the best case scenario, Pirela becomes the player many people believed Chone Figgins was, the guy who plays a different position everyday (to rest everyone else) and produces. More than likely though, he’ll be a bench guy while in his cheap pre-arbitration years.

No. 27: Ramon Flores

2015 Role: With Eury Perez now gone, Flores is the de facto fifth outfielder who will be called up in case of injury. Well, I guess sixth outfielder when you include Pirela. The 22-year-old Flores had a .247/.339/.443 (116 wRC+) line with seven homers in 63 games with the RailRiders last season — he hit eight homers in 141 games in 2013 — before a freak ankle injury effectively ended his season on the first day of June. Chances are he would have been a September call-up had he stayed healthy.

Long-Term Role: Carlos Beltran is perpetually on the verge of injury and/or a permanent shift to DH, and, as a left-handed hitter, Flores has a clear path to getting regular at-bats as at least a platoon right fielder in the near future. The Yankees never did give Zoilo Almonte — a switch-hitter who was better against righties with more raw power and more stolen base ability than Flores — a shot in a similar role whenever the opportunity arose these last few seasons, so there’s no guarantee Flores will get a look. That is more or less his long-term outlook: lefty platoon bat in a corner outfield spot.

Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)
Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

No. 26: Mason Williams

2015 Role: For the big league team, none. Williams has close to zero chance of helping the MLB team this coming season as anything more than a defensive replacement when rosters expand in September. He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason only because he is a former top prospect who was Rule 5 Draft eligible. Williams has hit .236/.298/.319 (74 wRC+) in over 1,200 plate appearances at High-A and Double-A the last two years. He has no business being considered for a 2015 role at the big league level.

Long-Term Role: Once upon a time, Williams had the potential to be a Jacoby Ellsbury type of player. A leadoff hitter with on-base ability, speed, and elite center field defense. That long-term outlook has changed considerably the last two years and a lot of has to do with makeup. Multiple reports say Williams has been insubordinate and plays with an utter lack of energy. He’s failing as a prospect, and it is definitely not due to a lack of physical talent.

Williams right now has no long-term role with the team. The Yankees are hoping he will get his career on track and improve going forward — perhaps the 40-man spot will serve as motivation — and if that happens, their intention may be to flip him in a trade as soon as possible. The club has been emphasizing strong makeup and work ethic for years and Williams has shown zero of that so far, leading me to believe he’s more likely to be dealt as soon as he rebuilds a modicum of trade value rather than be given a real big league opportunity.

Coming Wednesday: Nos. 20-25. Three veteran(-ish) big leaguers and three youngsters more important for the future than the present.