Miranda back up; Russo back down

Juan gone to AAA no longer. | Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees have recalled Juan Miranda from AAA Scranton and have sent Kevin Russo back to the minors, reports Ben Shpigel. Miranda is in the lineup tonight as the Yanks’ DH, and he will be batting eighth against Tampa’s James Shields.

For the 27-year-old Miranda, this is his second stint in the Bronx this year. In his previous stay, he hit .217/.294/.435 with a pair of home runs in 51 plate appearances. Recently back from a minor injury, he had been on a tear at AAA over his last ten games, hitting .459/.545/.838 with three home runs and eight doubles. On the season, his minor league line is .291/.380/.509 with 10 home runs in 175 at bats. He certainly can mash the ball.

Russo has long been the Yanks’ odd man out. He made a splash during the Subway Series in the Yanks’ 2-1 win over the Mets in May and, a few days later, helped down the Twins 3-2. Since then, however, he hasn’t hit or played much at all. He’s had just 28 plate appearances over the team’s last 36 games, and he’s just 3 for 24 in that span. He’s far better off getting regular playing time in Scranton than he is warming the bench in the Bronx.

For Miranda and the Yankees, this could be a semi-permanent move until or unless the team finds a true DH, and it could also be a trade showcase. If the Yanks want to make a move in a few weeks without selling the farm, Miranda could be the perfect trading chip. It could also spell the end to Francisco Cervelli‘s playing time as well because the Yanks would prefer to use Jorge at catcher while Marcus Thames and Miranda share DH duties. Either way, this is a move that was a long time coming.

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A modest proposal

With legitimate concerns regarding Teix (is he possibly turning the corner or just showing a “hot flash”?), the health of A-Rod and Posada, and the volatility of the bullpen, it seems silly to harp on an under-performing bench. Make no mistake, like all teams, the 2010 New York Yankees aren’t going to be sending up world-beaters off the bench. They’re bench players for a reason. Any tinkering will ultimately have minimal impact on the team and its win-loss record.

Nevertheless, a few changes to bring in some fresh blood may yield some positive dividends for the team. This doesn’t mean promoting Jesus Montero or Austin Romine to the big leagues – that would be foolish. It means taking a hard look at Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, Ramiro Pena and some of the weaker links in the bullpen. In short, the guys that haven’t “earned the right” to keep their spot when they aren’t performing and better options may be looming. On this beautiful morning, we’ll focus on the hitters.

I’ll admit I’ve never been a true believer of AAA SS Eduardo Nunez. He walked less than Stephen Hawking, was reported to have poor defense, had a BABip 60 points higher than anything he’d been at in his previous two levels (Charleston, Tampa) and I wasn’t sold on his power being more than a fluke. Yet he still threw up a combined line of .313/.343/.421 in just under 500 PA’s between Trenton and Scranton in 2009, so he couldn’t be entirely ignored, either. This year he’s largely shut me up. Offensively, at least. On the year in Scranton he’s posting a line of .320/.359/.410. That’s damn good. He’s hitting more line drives this year (up six percentage points to 17.6%) and his HR/FB rate is crazy low at roughly 2.5%, suggesting power should rebound a bit. (Last year’s rate was 8/150 – around 5%.) While I don’t know much about his defense, Nunez, 23, might just be ready for a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

As of now Ramiro Pena is the backup shortstop and the team (appropriately) seems to value his glove’s versatility. He can capably man all of the infield positions and can also play the outfield in a pinch. Herein lies the problem – for a guy hitting .190/.235/.210 (and little indication he’ll ever be even an average hitter), he really hasn’t been very good with the glove this year. Granted, it’s an extremely small sample, but even the eye test seems to indicate Pena’s been fairly pedestrian with the leather. Per UZR at Fangraphs, he’s negative at all positions thus far. Using B-Ref’s metrics, he’s also been underwhelming. On the year, Pena’s RAR is -4.8, his WAR -0.5 and he’s had a negative WPA in almost half of his games (12 out of 30).

Do I think he’s a poor fielder? No, not at all. But when as a player you’re all-glove, no bat, playing in limited bench time, it’s important that you reach defensive expectations. That hasn’t happened and given that he has options, I can’t think of many reasons to keep him around. Yes, he’s been victimized by an extremely low BABip of .220 and his defense should be better, but how much can he reasonably contribute? Nunez contributing average offense and below-average defense in limited time would be more valuable to the team than above-average defense and well below-average offense from Pena.

You’ll probably get poor defense with Nunez. I’ve heard a few Nunez fans say he’s much improved with his glove this year. He has good tools (and a great arm) but it’s never quite come together. Maybe he has; I’ve yet to hear anything myself, but it’s totally possible. He does, however, lead SWB with 7 errors. Even if his defense is poor, I think it’s reasonable to expect he could give you .270/.300/.350 in the big leagues. Of course, I also thought that Russo would provide that, so perhaps that expectation is unreasonable. Still, if nothing else, with Russo and Cervelli often in the lineup due to apprehension to push Posada and A-Rod (justifiably so), having a Nunez at least provides a better shot that there won’t have a complete black hole when an infielder needs a rest. Because I have no doubt Pena will always be a black hole in the lineup.

While Kevin Russo was a fan favorite early on for his “clutch hits,” he’s been dreadful offensively for the team. For the Bombers Russo is “hitting” .196/.260/.239 and even worse in June, checking in at a paltry .136/.240/.136. The good news is he’s been really hurt (like Pena) by a BABip of .225, has what appears to be solid hitting skills (if the minors are any indication), has been good with the glove and there’s really no one in the high minors that can play a utility role like he. There aren’t better options available in house. With Pena, I think there are.

As I’ve said, the difference between Pena and Nunez in the grand scheme of things –as a backup infielder getting spot duty– is likely to be small. This doesn’t mean you stand pat. If the move is made and Nunez is the inverse of Pena (average hitting, unbelievably poor defense), you probably end the experiment and return to the previous set-up. There’s really not much downside to a switch. With both players having options, the bottom of the lineup very often being an automatic out with injuries and necessary rest for starters, and Nunez potentially having some value to the Yankees (or another team via trade) in the future,it’s a move I think needs investigating.

Mike Lowell in pinstripes?

So the word in Boston is that Mike Lowell is on the outs, and could be gone within a week.  Since he made his displeasure with his semi-platoon with David Ortiz known on May 19th, he has been buried on Terry Francona’s bench.  While some of that can be attributed to  Ortiz’ resurgence at the plate, he has been struggling lately, yet Lowell hasn’t gotten much of a chance to contribute.  In 11 games in June, Ortiz has a .158/.333/.316 line with 1 HR.  Considering Ortiz is also hitting just .217/.315/.326 vs. LHP on the year, they surely could have found more at-bats for Lowell, no?

I bring this all on up on the slight chance that the Sox just release Lowell in the next 10 days or so.  I assume, by eating the rest of Lowell’s contract, the Sox will be able to find a trade partner.  In the offseason, before failing a physical, the Sox had agreed to trade Lowell to Texas for intriguing catcher Max Ramirez.  I expect a trade soon, while the Sox will likely get less of a return, they are in more dire need to rid themselves of a potential problem.

But………………

If the Sox can’t work out a trade, and Lowell is soon released, how would Lowell look in pinstripes, returning to his original organization?  Is there room for him in New York?  Would he be happy with the playing time?  Would he even consider crossing to the other side of the rivalry?  My answers are yes, yes, and yes.

The recent injury to Alex Rodriguez, however minor, has shown what a huge hole is created when he is out of the lineup.  While Curtis Granderson, Jorge Posada and Nick Johnson have all missed time this year, there were sufficient backups in place which allowed the Yankees to tread water at those positions.  At third base, it’s a different story.  Not only is A-Rod better than the aforementioned trio, his backups are worse.  Ramiro Pena simply cannot hit at the major league level.  Kevin Russo has shown nothing with the bat and has seen limited time at 3rd base.  If A-Rod were to even go on the 15 day DL, it would be a huge blow to the Yankees.

If A-Rod remains healthy, is there a role for Lowell as a DH?  While Lowell is (or was) being used in Boston as a DH against LHP, in his career he has OPS’d .797 against righthanders, so he doesn’t exactly have Marcus Thames type splits.  That .797 OPS of course came primarily as a strong fielding 3rd baseman, and not a DH, so there was a ton of value in that type of offensive production.  Could you bring in Lowell as a backup at the corners, and give him 60-70% of the at-bats at DH?  You could still work Posada in at DH, and have Thames (or now Huffman) DH against lefties.  If you are comfortable with Ramiro Pena in the OF, you can send Kevin Russo to Scranton.  If you are comfortable with Russo at SS, you can send Pena down.  If bringing in Lowell would provide enough of an upgrade, you can make it work roster-wise.

To address my second and third yes votes above, why would Lowell be happy as a part-time player in New York if he’s not happy in Boston?  Lowell, frankly, has been bitter since soon after resigning with the Sox after the 2007 World Series.  He took a hometown discount as the Phillies were offering him a longer deal, but Lowell wanted to stay with the Sox and took fewer years and total dollars.  It wasn’t long before the rumors started about the Sox acquiring new players that would have pushed Lowell out of his starting role.  This displeasure was strongly evident when the Sox made the hard push to sign Mark Teixeira after the 2008 season, which would have moved Kevin Youkilis to 3B, and Lowell on the trade block.  Lowell was pissed.  After winning the World Series MVP and taking a hometown discount, he felt he deserved better.  Lowell’s feelings were only compounded this offseason when the Sox signed Adrian Beltre (after many Adrian Gonzalez rumors) to play 3rd, pushing Lowell to the bench.  This, a nearly two-year-old chip on his shoulder, just might be enough for Lowell to not only accept a reduced role for another team, but also to do it for the Yankees, just to spite the Red Sox.

There are a lot more questions than answers, and at the end of the day I don’t think the Sox will cut Lowell knowing that he could end up in pinstripes.  We don’t know whether Lowell can play even a passable 3rd base anymore.  He was terrible in 2009, but was struggling with a major hip injury.  We don’t know how much is left in his bat; in 2008 and 2009 he was about league average, and he has just 74 ABs this year.  We don’t know if he would consider a part-time role — or any role — with the Yankees.  If the Yankees had the opportunity to get Lowell for the minimum, I think it’s something they would have to look into, and see if they can catch lightning in a bottle.  If not, they can cut him themselves, no harm, no foul.

For more of my work head over to Mystique and Aura.

Granderson roulette: Russo, Winn or Pena

On May 1, Curtis Granderson injured his groin in a game against the White Sox, and the Yankees fell to 15-8 on the season. Since then, the Yankees have gone just 13-11, and even though Granderson is hitting just .225/.311/.375 on the young season, he brings depth to the Yanks’ lineup and bench. His return from the disabled list — rumored to come tonight — is a welcome development indeed.

When Granderson is activated, the Yanks will have their center fielder back. Granderson told reporters that he is at around 90-95 percent. “The groin is actually good. I haven’t felt anything with it,” he said. “If you dig in and touch it, it’s still tender to the touch. But I don’t feel anything with it.”

The Yankees, notoriously tight-lipped, haven’t yet decided on a corresponding roster move. As far as I can tell, the team has three options. Because Joe Girardi prefers a full bullpen, they will ship Kevin Russo back to the minors, designate Randy Winn for assignment or send Ramiro Pena down to AAA. Let’s evaluate.

1. Send Kevin Russo back to AAA

Our first option remains both most likely and least popular with the fans. By virtue of a few clutch hits and some solid work in left field, Kevin Russo has turned himself into a household name. He could still find himself ticketed to Scranton.

Why Russo will go: With Granderson’s return, the Yankees will have their three starting outfielders, Randy Winn, and — gulp — Marcus Thames as their five outfielders. For his defensive capabilities, Russo is a better long-term option than Thames ever will be, but he’s hitting just .250/.286/.350 and has a career Minor League OPS of .763. By sending him down, the Yankees can give him some every-day experience and work on his infield and outfield skills. He’ll remain under team control and would probably be the first guy up in case of emergency.

Why Russo could stay: Randy Winn looks like toast. Ramiro Peña, not known for his offense, hasn’t hit a lick this year. If anything, Russo is the best of three less-than-desirable choices.

2. Designate Randy Winn for assignment

I have to admit that I’m no fan of Randy Winn. I expected him to be a decent enough outfielder with some bat, but he’s shown no ability whatsoever this year. He hits like Melky and seems to throw like Johnny Damon, and his bad play in the Citi Field games did little to endear him to fans. The Yanks are paying him a guaranteed $1.1 million with some performance bonuses, and they could easily just cut him loose.

Why Winn will go: Handed the left field job when Curtis Granderson went down, Winn did everything in his power to lose it. He’s hitting a weak .213/.300/.295 this year and can’t seem to get around on a fastball. On the bright side, he has a 1.4 UZR in left field but with an arm below average. He is easily replaceable.

Why Winn will stay: With that positive UZR, the Yankees could utilize Winn as a late-innings defensive specialist. They don’t particularly need his bat with Granderson’s return to the lineup, and once the team cuts Winn, they won’t be bringing him back. With Russo or Peña, the team can simply summon either player from AAA and be none the worse for it. The Yankees like their old veterans, and Winn fits that bill — at least for a few more weeks.

3. Send Ramiro Peña to AAA

The Yanks’ final option would involve sending out their lone back-up middle infielder to AAA. The all-glove, no-hit 25-year-old could head back to Scranton to take some innings at the corner outfield positions with an eye toward replacing Randy Winn if he can handle the job.

Why Peña will go: If you thought Randy Winn’s bat was slow, get a load of Peña’s. He’s appeared in just 18 games this year and has come to the plate 42 times. Whatever offense he might have is just withering away, and he’s hitting .211/.244/.237. He somehow managed to hit .287 last season, but his minor league career triple slash — .255/.315/.320 — is more in line with his 2010 numbers than his 2009 campaign. In a very small sample, his defense has been nothing spectacular this year, and he is, simply put, dead weight on a roster with too much dead weight.

Why Peña will stay: Only one trait is keeping Ramiro in the Bronx: He can play short stop. The Bombers do not appear to believe that Kevin Russo could man short should Jeter go down, and the team would prefer to keep their only versatile back-up infield at the big league level. It’s flimsy reasoning at best, but it should be enough to save Peña’s job for the next few months as Russo learns short.

As roster moves go, the one the Yanks must make later today is rather inconsequential, but it certainly provides us with a glimpse into the inner workings of a GM’s mind. Someone will have to go, and while three candidates could be shipped out, which one goes will have an impact on the make-up of the current Yankee roster.

Swisher wins one for Pettitte

Last time the Yankees faced the Twins, they were coming off a minor losing skid, having dropped three of four to the Tigers. For the first two games the Yankees had it together, and they clinched a series win before melting down on Sunday. This time the Yanks were coming off two straight series losses, including losses in six of their previous 10 games. Once again they’ve used the Twins as a prop. They finished what they started earlier in the day, and then came back to win a whole game, played all at once.

Biggest Hit: Swisher goes where few have gone before

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

Andy Pettitte kept the Twins’ offense under control for most of the game. After allowing a run in the first he worked through the Twins lineup with aplomb, throwing 72 of his 94 pitches for strikes. Heading into the bottom of the seventh he had a lead, but one pitch changed that. With a 2-0 count on Delmon Young, Pettitte delivered a fastball outside. Young smacked it over Brett Gardner‘s head. Running from first base, Michael Cuddyer read it all the way and came all the way around to score. That tied the game and put pressure back on the laboring Yankees’ offense.

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

As Justin Morneau displayed on Tuesday, hitting the ball to right at Target field is not like hitting the ball to right at Yankee Stadium. Not only is the fence 20 feet deeper, but it’s probably four times as high. It must be tough for a lefty to hit one out there. Morneau might agree, as nine of his 11 home runs have come on the road. The Yankees needed a run in the ninth, especially after what Pettitte had done in the eighth. With Brett Gardner and then the top of the order due up, the Yanks stood a decent chance.

Gardner worked the count full before popping one up right around second base. Jeter saw a hanging breaking ball high in the zone and had the right idea. The pitch was just a bit too high for him, though, and he just got under it. That brought up Nick Swisher with none on and two out.

Jon Rauch stayed away from his fastball when dealing with Swish. His first-pitch curveball crossed the top of the zone for strike one. The next pitch, another curveball, fell a little low, though it was a well-placed pitch. Rauch went to the changeup next, and he left it right out over the plate. Swisher took a swipe at it, and a few seconds later it had landed in the seats. It was Swisher’s eighth home run on the season. He also hit his seventh double in the first.

Biggest Pitch: Pettitte bests Mauer

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

Heading into the eighth it looked like Andy Pettitte was on pace for a complete game. He’d thrown just 83 pitches in the first seven innings. He’d need only 14 pitches to get through the eighth, but it they were a stressful 14 pitches. Drew Butera made it tough right from the start, doubling on Pettitte’s second pitch of the inning. The ball actually hit a running Brett Gardner in the glove, but he couldn’t hang on. Denard Span tried to bunt him over, and after a foul on the first pitch he got one down towards third. A-Rod overpursued a bit, flubbing the ball and allowing Span to reach and Butera to advance.

The situation could not be more dire. First and third, none out, and only Orlando Hudson standing between Pettitte and the heart of the Twins’ order, Mauer and Morneau. Pettitte’s teammates were partly responsible for the baserunners, but Pettitte himself had to work out of the jam. He got off to a good start by getting Orlando Hudson to line right back to him. The baserunners froze, leaving no chance of a double play, but Pettitte still had an incredible task ahead of him.

Last year, during his MVP run, Joe Mauer stepped to the plate 125 times with the possibility of a double play. He hit into only 13 of them. This year has treated him a bit differently. In 46 double play opportunities coming into last night, Mauer had hit into nine of them, or about double his rate from last season. Even so, it didn’t seem probable. When Joe Mauer comes to the plate, I always envision him getting a hit.

Pettitte worked the corners, throwing his first to pitches low and away before coming inside with the next two.With the count 3-1, Pettitte threw a cutter that probably would have ended a little off the plate. But Mauer swung, grounding it to Jeter who was playing up the middle. He flipped to Cano, who flung to Teixeira to complete the double play and get Pettitte out of the jam. At that point, the Yankees had to win the game for him.

Russo the run creator

Photo credit: Andy King/AP

Francisco Liriano was good, not great, last night. He had quality stuff, and it led to seven strikeouts and 10 groundouts, which is right around where Liriano wants to be. It might sound like a recent call-up like Kevin Russo would be overmatched, and during his first at-bat that did appear to be the case. Liriano threw him two fastballs and then buried two sliders inside for a swinging strikeout. The next two battles wouldn’t go so well for Liriano.

Robinson Cano singled up the middle to lead off the fourth, but neither Marcus Thames nor Francisco Cervelli could follow him. Cervelli ended up hitting into a fielder’s choice, just beating out the double play, and replacing Cano at first. Russo then came up with two outs. Liriano attacked him similarly, keeping almost everything inside. The last slider didn’t get quite far enough inside, and Russo pulled it down the line to left. Once it got to the wall Cervelli was almost guaranteed to score and tie the game at one.

With two outs in the sixth, Russo faced Liriano again, and for the second time manufactured a quality at-bat. He fouled off a fastball and then a slider, and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat he got a changeup low and away, which he pulled into left for a two-out hit. Brett Gardner followed by smacking a first-pitch fastball to right, sending Russo all the way home for the go-ahead run. Once again, the Yankees got some serious production from the bottom of the order, which compensated for the slumping middle of the order.

Positive sign for Teixeira

Mark Teixeira went 2 for 5 today, which was especially nice given his 0 for 4 performance the game before. His first hit was a bit of a cheapie, a pop up that found a hole in the defense. But as you’ll hear many a former player profess, sometimes those are the ones that help you break out. If that really was the magic potion that broke his slump, he showed it in the ninth.

After giving up the homer, Jon Rauch did to Teixeira what he would not do to Swisher: he threw a fastball. It caught the outside corner for strike one. He then went to the slider, which missed outside for ball two. It was slider again on the third pitch, and this one appeared to break below the zone. The ump never got a chance to call it, as Teixeira took a Teixeira-like swing at it, driving it into right field for what looked like a double. He got thrown out at second on a good throw and relay, but that’s not really the point. The pitch wasn’t particularly good, yet Tex still hit it on the screws.

Maybe, just maybe, that will get him going. Nobody needs it now more than Tex.

WPA Graph and box score

More at FanGraphs. Official box score at MLB.com

Up next

It’s another CDT game, 8 p.m., when Javy Vazquez goes for the Yanks against Nick Blackburn for the Twins.

Link Dump: Girardi, Giambi, Russo, Catchers

Some links to check out while I try to get my finger to stop bleeding after cutting it open with a broken glass…

Joe Girardi interview at HBR

Katherine Bell of The Harvard Business Journal sat down for a chat with Yanks’ manager Joe Girardi recently, and it’s really one of the better interviews you’ll see. There aren’t any lay-up questions; they talked about his use of statistics, older players mentoring the younger players on the team, his divorce from the Marlins, steroids, all sorts of great stuff. It gets RAB’s highest level of recommendation.

Giambi gets hosed

He hasn’t been a Yankee for over a full year now, but Jason Giambi was always a favorite of mine, so I still keep tabs on him. Even during his down years from 2006-2008, he still put up a .386 OBP and a .262 ISO. Anyway, the Giambino invested seven figures into a social network/fashion retail website (really Big G?), but apparently got taken to the cleaners by a tech guy who delivered an inferior product. Giambi and his wife are now suing the guy for $3M, but I get the sense that the former Yank is the kind of guy that would rather have a few minutes alone with him in a locked room.

Mr. Russo makes it

The Wall Street Journal has been cranking out some great stuff recently, and today they have a feature on Kevin Russo. Apparently the scrappy (yay!) little utility player from Long Island didn’t even have the benefit of the doubt from his college coach at Baylor, who “was just pulling for him to catch a break.” Russo’s father was a Yankee fan before succumbing to cancer in 2007, so for him to be playing in that uniform is all the more special for him and his family. Great stuff, right there.

Overworking catchers

Over at FanGraphs, our own Joe Pawlikowski took a look at catchers who’ve been doing a lot of catching this season, and the possible effect it’ll have on their production. I bring this up because Frankie Cervelli just finished a stretch in which he started seven games in seven days, nine games in ten days, and 15 games in 20 days. Unsurprisingly, his OPS has dropped 64 points during that time, but of course he wasn’t going to maintain his torrid pace all season. Really, I’m thinking more about laying off him a little more now to prevent him from being completely worn out come August and September.

Jorge Posada‘s not young and has already dealt with three different injuries this year (two fluky, of course), so Girardi has to be prepared for a situation in which Cervelli starts the majority of games from here on out. Easing back on the gas now should have benefits later.

AAA prospects: a status report

Photo Credit: Cataffo/ Ny Daily News

Mike does a great job compiling all of the stats and happenings across the Yankees’ minor league system in his nightly Down on the Farm series. From Staten Island to Scranton, we have a pretty good sense about how our players did, even if we mostly only care about Montero, Romine, ManBan, Ramirez, Warren, Z-Mac, Stoneburner and a handful of other players.

But after a while we sometimes get “stuck” in the numbers — we forget how the guy that’s just gone 0-5 with 4 K’s during last night’s game is very often the same guy that went 4-5 with two home runs the night before. So I’m going to be doing a recap of how some of the AAA farmhands have performed thus far, all of which came from milb.com or minorleaguesplits.com. Many of the players on this list are on Mike’s Preseason Prospect List, where you can get a better look at their long term prospects. In this AAA installment I chose to recap players that are actual prospects, most of which will likely (if they haven’t already) see major league action this year. Not too many are interested in seeing Amaury Sanit’s progress, though I’m betting we’d all love to find out if Kei Igawa sleeps with those awesome sunglasses on (I’ll do some digging and try to find out for you all).

Next week we’ll take a look at how some of the AA guys are looking. Also, because there’s a Montero Watch present in the sidebar and most DotF are comprised of MonteroTalk, we’re going to leave him out on this one.

AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre

Kevin Russo, 2B: With the big league club having apparently suffering a pandemic of Mets-itus, a few AAA players have seen some promotions. Chief among them, and for good reason, is utility player Kevin Russo. Russo, a former 20th round draft pick out of Baylor in 2006, had hit .302/.383/.425 as Scranton’s second basemen before jumping to Massachusetts after Robinson Cano was hit by a Josh Beckett fastball. He got only two plate appearances but Russo’s versatility – he can at least play three infield spots and man the corner outfield positions – defensively, his solid on-base skills, and good contact ability make him a good candidate to stick in the big leagues for a long time. With Ramiro Pena‘s mounting struggles with the bat (which was inevitable, really), Russo may take him over as a super-utility guy at some point. He’ll have to show he can at least play SS passably, though, and there’s no guarantee of that. Bonus: if there are minors fantasy leagues that exist (I’m hoping they do), he’ll soon have CF eligibility, too. He’s played there of late.

Season line in AAA: .301/.388/.416

Last ten games: .310/.383/.405

Time in New York: .000/.000/.000

Eduardo Nunez, SS: Most people saw this coming. Nunez got off to a torrid pace, as Greg Fertel and even RAB’s own Mike Axisa have noted in his DotF postings. Consequently, Nunez has really tailed off, displaying why we shouldn’t fall in love with early season small sample sizes. With a few middle infielders ahead of him in the pecking order and poor defensive skills (albeit with a great arm), Nunez is unlikely to see any big league action this year. If he does it will because of ghastly circumstances. Poor defense, weak power, unrefined on-base skills with very good contact ability, plus speed and a wonderful arm. That may translate to some modicum of minor league success, but I don’t see it happening on the major league level for a middle infielder (and really one in name only).

Season in AAA: .321/.371/.400

Last ten games: .244/.262/.268

Juan Miranda, 1B: Miranda was a big-money IFA signing of the Yanks from Cuba back in 2006. You may remember he was once considered the future first baseman of the Yanks. While that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, Miranda, in his final option year, is playing for a contract for a big league club next year. The book on him was that though he really nails right handers, he struggles with lefties and his defensive play is by no means great, even for a first baseman. Last year he took positive steps in correcting those problems, hitting lefties with a triple slash of .291/.367/.507. So far, in AAA, he’s continued that pace, hitting .313/.389/.563 in 33 plate appearances (note: this is according to minorleaguesplits.com, which is a bit behind in their stats). Oddly, he’s struggled against righties, hitting .222/.354/.364 in 66 plate appearances. He’s been in New York for a few games, and with Nick Johnson possibly out for a few months, Miranda may stay in New York as a DH. Considering Johnson’s injury history, the team couldn’t be caught too surprised by that. This may be make or break for Miranda.

Season line in AAA: .260/.371/.438

Last ten games in AAA:.250/.357/.417

Time in New York: .143/.250/.286

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore

Ivan Nova, SP

Nova’s rocketed up Yankee top prospect lists over the last two years as he’s finally started to harness his very good stuff. He’s been up in New York after the injury bug hit and he’s largely impressed, though he’s probably the guy sent back down with Park coming back from the DL. In his first appearance, Nova, signed by the Yanks and returned after being selected as a Rule V from the Padres, came in and threw two scoreless innings and in today’s game he again looked fairly good. With a likely ceiling as a back-end starter in the AL East (which really isn’t all that bad when you think about it), Nova is very likely to be the first guy up again with another injury, first because he’s already on the 40-man roster, and second because a groundball pitcher with good stuff is always a valuable commodity. He also has an outside shot at a rotation spot next year depending on how things shake out.

AAA season: 37 IP, 2.43 ERA, 35 hits, 32 K, 12 BB, 1.78 GO/AA

Last two starts: 13 IP, 3.84 ERA, 17 hits, 7 K, 4 BB

Time in New York: 3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 1 K, 0 BB

Zack McAllister, SP

Z-Mac has had an up-and-down in his first run at AAA. Arguably the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, McAllister ran into some issues in late April, early May, giving up over 6 runs in two of three starts. Still, he’s sprinkled in some good games and has strung two consecutive 7-inning performances of good ball. A polished groundball pitcher, McAllister may wind up trade bait or perhaps in the rotation as early as next year. He, like Nova, has back rotation or possibly #3 starter potential, but he’s going to need to get that groundball rate up again. A 34% GB ratio is not going to work at the big league level for a guy with his skill set. It wouldn’t hurt to develop a true out pitch, either.

Season in AAA: 45 IP, 4.40 ERA, 52 hits, 32 K, 9 BB, 0.52 GO/AA

Last two starts: 14 IP, 2.14 ERA, 14 hits, 8K, 1 BB

Romulo Sanchez, SP/RP

The last of the famed “Fat Sanchezes,” Romulo has been very impressive in his time in Pennsylvania and also in New York. Sanchez has a great fastball, occasionally hitting the high 90’s with his 4-seamer, but he likely profiles best as a reliever in the future due to his erratic control and fringe-average off-speed pitches (a changeup and slider). If he can locate that big fastball and keep hitters off balance with one of the off speed offerings, he could definitely stick with the big club over the year. His numbers in Scranton are a bit misleading. In April he gave up 10 earned runs in only 2.1 innings. Otherwise, he’s been among the better pitchers in the upper minors.

AAA season: 32 IP, 5.34 ERA, 30 hits, 32 K, 16 BB, 1.22 GO/AA

Last 2 starts: 14 IP, 1.42 ERA, 9 hits, 17 K, 2 BB

In New York: 3.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 hit, 3 K, 1 BB

Mark Melancon, RP

The final name on our list, Melancon entered last season with high expectations and didn’t live up to them in limited action. I recall his propensity for hitting opposing batters (along with old favorite Mike Dunn). It was probably just jitters because he returned to AAA and fell right back where he’d been before his callup. He came back up again briefly and showed signs of life, causing many of us to think he’d be up in the Bronx to start the year. Well, hasn’t happened yet but it seems like just a matter of time. Melancon has again been very good in Pennsylvania in 2010. A look at his splits reveals some quirks, though. You might look at his numbers against righties and say, “Wait a second, this doesn’t look right.” And to some extent, you’d be right. But aha! Along with a BABip against righties of .462, he’s also giving up a line drive rate of 26.2%, yet checking in with an FIP of 3.05. Look a bit further over and you see why. He’s striking out 16.55 righties per nine innings this year. Wow, that’s strange data. Against lefties he’s getting lots of groundouts, another promising sign. I’d be fairly shocked if we don’t see Melancon in the Bronx very soon.

AAA Season: 23 IP, 2.74 ERA, 21 hits, 31 K, 8 BB, 1.71 GO/AA

Last 4 appearances: 5.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 13 K, 2 BB