Sorting out the projected 2015 Triple-A Scranton roster

Sanchez will be the top prospect in Triple-A in 2015. (Presswire)
Sanchez will be the top prospect in Triple-A in 2015. (Presswire)

As we’ve seen firsthand the last few seasons, these days it takes way more than 25 players to get through a 162-game season. It usually takes more than the 40 guys on the 40-man roster as well. Players get hurt and/or underperform, and reinforcements are needed. The Yankees used a franchise record 58 different players last season and over the last five seasons they’ve averaged 50 players per year.

Needless to say, the Triple-A affiliate is very important. Many clubs use it as a taxi squad for their extra players, calling up fresh arms for the bullpen as needed or an extra right-handed bat if they’re slated to see a lot of lefty starters that week. Stuff like that. Triple-A is a place to stash spare players, the important depth pieces each team needs throughout the season.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the projected Triple-A Scranton roster for the upcoming season. Keep in mind that it is only the middle of January and a lot can and will change between now and Opening Day. This is just a snapshot in time. Let’s get to it.

Position Players

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Gary Sanchez* Kyle Roller Eury Perez* Jose Pirela*
Austin Romine* Nick Noonan Tyler Austin* Adonis Garcia
Juan Graterol Rob Refsnyder Ramon Flores* Jonathan Galvez
Francisco Arcia Cole Figueroa Taylor Dugas Ali Castillo
Rob Segedin Ben Gamel

Players on the 40-man roster are denoted with an asterisk. Aside from putting the 40-man guys at the top, there’s no particular reason why the players are listed in that order, so don’t read anything into it.

Sanchez, who seems to be a little underrated at the moment, will serve as the RailRiders’ regular catcher after spending a year and a half in Double-A. Romine is the most obvious candidate to back Sanchez up, though he is out of minor league options, so sending him down will require a trip through waivers. I suppose Romine could back up Brian McCann with John Ryan Murphy in Triple-A, but that seems highly unlikely. If Romine does get lost on waivers, Arcia and minor league free agent pickup Graterol are the backup candidates. I’d bet on Arcia backing up Sanchez in that case with Graterol either in Double-A or on the phantom DL.

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

The first of two locks on the infield is Refsnyder, who will play second and probably bat third if he doesn’t slip onto the big league roster somehow. That would require an injury in Spring Training, most likely. Roller at first base is the other lock and he’ll probably bat cleanup behind Refnsyder. He mashed last summer. Segedin spent some time in Triple-A last year and it didn’t go well (2 wRC+!), though he’ll likely get another shot this year and play his usual third base. Noonan and Figueroa were signed as minor league free agents and are candidates to play short.

The outfield is a little crowded, though I expect Perez to be designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Stephen Drew. (No, the Drew signing still isn’t official. They’re taking their time with that one.) Assuming Perez goes, Dugas and Garcia will share center field duty like they did at times in 2014. Flores and Austin are natural fits in left and right field, respectively, and Pirela will probably wind up playing a different position everyday, like he did last season. He’ll be the rover. That’s assuming he doesn’t win a big league bench job somehow.

That brings us to 12 position players assuming Perez loses his roster spot to Drew. The 13th position player spot will go to one of Gamel, Castillo, or Galvez, and I think Galvez is the obvious choice, mostly because he’s spent the last two years in Triple-A. Gamel (80 wRC+) and Castillo (81 wRC+) weren’t particularly good with Double-A Trenton in 2014. Galvez was another minor league free agent signing and his 101 wRC+ at Triple-A the last two years suggests he will be there again in 2015. He might even start at third over Segedin.

Alright, so after all of that, the position player portion of the RailRiders roster figures to look something like this:

C Sanchez
1B Roller
2B Refsnyder
SS Noonan or Figueroa
3B Segedin
LF Flores
CF Dugas or Garcia
RF Austin
DH Pirela

Bench: Romine/Graterol/Arcia, Noonan or Figueroa, Dugas or Garcia, Galvez

If you want to play around with the batting order, I’d go with Pirela at leadoff, then Flores, Refsnyder, Roller, Sanchez, Austin, Segedin, Dugas or Garcia, then Noonan or Figueroa in the ninth spot. More importantly, Pirela is likely to be the first player called up whenever help is needed simply because he’s already on the 40-man and can play almost anywhere. Not well, mind you, but he can do it. Versatility works in his favor.

Austin, Sanchez, and Flores are all on the 40-man and I think all three will make their MLB debuts this season, even if it’s nothing more than a September call-up. Flores played 63 games around an ankle injury in Triple-A last summer and will probably get the call before Austin if an outfielder is needed. Sanchez isn’t ready to catch in MLB so an awful lot would have to go wrong for him to get called up at midseason. Someone like Noonan or Figueroa could get a random call-up at some point if necessary. We’ll see. For the most part, this is the crop of position players I expect to head to Scranton at the end of Spring Training.

Pitchers

Starters RH Relievers LH Relievers
Jose DePaula* Jose Ramirez* Chasen Shreve*
Bryan Mitchell* Branden Pinder* Jacob Lindgren
Chase Whitley* Danny Burawa* Tyler Webb
Zach Nuding Chris Martin* James Pazos
Matt Tracy Mark Montgomery Fred Lewis
Caleb Cotham Diego Moreno
Joel De La Cruz

Update: I totally forgot about RHP Nick Rumbelow, who ended last season in Triple-A. He’ll be in the bullpen mix this year as well. My bad.

Again, don’t read anything into the order of the players in the table. I just listed them as they came to mind. Also, I’m not actually sure if De La Cruz is with the organization any more. He re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent last offseason and I don’t know if he did so again this year.

Anyway, the Triple-A rotation is very much up in the air depending on the needs of the big league team. If the Yankees need to dip into this group of players before Opening Day, Mitchell would presumably get the first shot at the rotation. Whitley made some starts last season and was actually pretty good for a while, but the wheels eventually came off and I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to seeing him in the rotation again anytime soon. I do think he’ll start for the RailRiders just to stay stretched out as an emergency option though.

DePaula’s interesting. The Yankees liked him enough to give him a Major League contract and a 40-man roster spot a few weeks ago, though he’s thrown only 131 innings over the last three years due to injury (51.1 in 2014). He’s a starter and an easy call for the Triple-A rotation. Nuding, Tracy, Cotham and De La Cruz all spent part of last season with the RailRiders and I think I’d put them in that order on a depth chart. Meaning if everyone in the MLB rotation stays healthy, I think the Triple-A rotation would include Mitchell, DePaula, Whitley, Nuding, and Tracy with Cotham and De La Cruz stuck back in Double-A. Assuming De La Cruz is still in the system, of course.

One rotation candidate who is not listed is top pitching prospect Luis Severino, who the Yankees have clearly put on the fast track. I don’t think Severino will start the year with Triple-A Scranton — he made six starts with Trenton at the end of last season — because right now it appears the RailRiders have enough bodies for the rotation. More than enough, really. Plus he’s an actual prospect, not just someone to soak up innings. A few more starts in Double-A won’t be the end of the world. Severino will be up in Triple-A before you know it.

The bullpen is where it really gets a little tight. The Yankees have one open spot in the big league bullpen right now and that spot will go to one of those eleven guys listed in the table above. I fully expect a) there to be a Spring Training competition for that last bullpen spot, and b) that last spot to be a revolving door all year. It always is. Whoever wins the roster spot in camp doesn’t automatically get to keep it all year either. If that player isn’t doing the job, the Yankees will be quick to make a change because they have plenty of options.

Lewis and Moreno have Triple-A time but are non-prospects and low priority players, so they’ll be on the short end of the roster stick come decision time. They could start the year in Double-A or be flat out released if there’s no room. Montgomery, who isn’t much of a prospect anymore because he lost a ton of velocity following his 2013 shoulder injury, was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A last year. I think he’ll get another shot at Triple-A this year. Pazos had a 1.50 ERA (2.78 FIP) in 42 innings from Trenton last season and could wind up back there because of the numbers crunch.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Assuming Lewis, Moreno, and Pazos don’t make the RailRiders roster — and the extra starters (Cotham and De La Cruz) are sent to Double-A instead of the bullpen — we’re down to eight relievers for eight roster spots — the last spot in MLB and seven in Triple-A. Who gets that MLB spot will be determined in camp and I honestly think it’ll go to whoever looks the best during Grapefruit League play. If it’s Ramirez, it’s Ramirez. If it’s Shreve, it’s Shreve. If Martin surprises and wins the last bullpen spot, great. I think that race is wide open.

So, based on all of that, I think the Triple-A rotation will be Mitchell, DePaula, Whitley, Nuding, and Tracy with an eight-man bullpen pool of Shreve, Lindgren, Webb, Ramirez, Pinder, Burawa, Martin, and Montgomery. One of those eight gets to start the year in the show as the last reliever and 25th man on the roster. Guessing which pitcher will be the first to get called up is a fool’s errand. That depends on rest and availability as much as it does performance. The 40-man guys are always a safe bet to get the call first.

It goes without saying this all subject to change. We’re still five weeks from the start of the Spring Training, meaning there is plenty of time for trades and DFAs and injuries and all sorts of other stuff before the start of the regular season. This is just a best guess based on the personnel available right now. The Yankees have built up quite a bit of depth this winter, particularly pitching depth, and that carries over into the minors. Guys like Cotham, Lewis, and Pazos would have been locks for Triple-A in part years, but now it appears they’ll have to return to Double-A until there’s an injury. One way or another, expect to see many of these guys in the Bronx this summer.

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton announce coaching staffs

Thames is movin' on up. (Times of Trenton)
Thames is movin’ on up. (Times of Trenton)

The Yankees have yet to hire a new hitting coach and first base coach, but they have finalized the coaching staffs for their top two minor league affiliates. They were officially announced a few days ago. There was quite a bit a turnover — which isn’t uncommon at the minor league level —¬† and some of it appears to have long-term big league implications. Here are the new staffs:

Triple-A Scranton

Manager: Dave Miley
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Pitching Coach: Scott Aldred
Defensive Coach: Justin Tordi
Trainers: Darren London (head trainer) and Lee Tressell (strength and conditioning)

Miley, Aldred, and London are all returning. Miley has been managing New York’s top farm team since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. Aldred was considered for the big league pitching coach job a few years ago before Larry Rothschild was hired. Tordi was the first base and bench coach with Low-A Charleston last summer.

The most notable name here is Thames, who was said to be a candidate for the big league hitting coach job earlier this offseason. In fact, at one point it was erroneously reported he would take over as the team’s assistant hitting coach, but obviously that isn’t the case. Thames was the hitting coach for High-A Tampa in 2013 and Double-A Trenton in 2014, so he’s moving up another level. He has a lot of supporters in the organization and it appears the team is grooming him for an MLB coaching job in the future, perhaps as soon as 2016. Maybe that whole assistant hitting coach report thing was a year early.

Double-A Trenton

Manager: Al Pedrique
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Defensive Coach: Michel Hernandez
Trainers: Lee Meyer (head trainer) and Orlando Crance (strength and conditioning)

Hernandez, Meyer and Crance are all returning to the team. Rosado is joining the Thunder after spending the last four seasons as a pitching coach with one of the team’s two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates.

Pilittere, who longtime RAB readers will remember as a player from Down on the Farm, was High-A Tampa’s hitting coach last year, Low-A Charleston’s hitting the coach the year before that, and the Rookie GCL Yanks hitting coach the year before that. The scouting report on him as a player always said he was smart guy with top notch makeup, which made him a good coaching candidate down the line. Like Thames, Pilittere seems to be a faster riser up the coaching ranks.

Pedrique is replacing longtime Thunder skipper Tony Franklin, who had been managing the team since 2007. Pedrique has some big league managerial and coaching experience — he spent 83 games as interim manager of the awful Diamondbacks in 2004 — and has been with the organization since 2013. He managed Low-A Charleston in 2013 and High-A Tampa in 2014.

Franklin, meanwhile, will manage the Pulaski Yankees in 2015, the organization’s new rookie ball affiliate, according to George King (subs. req’d). King notes that under new player development head Gary Denbo, the Yankees want to put veteran managers at the lower levels of the minors to work with their youngest prospects. I like the idea. I have no idea if it’ll make any real difference, but I like it.

Yankees extend PDC with Triple-A Scranton through 2018

The Yankees have extended their player development contract with the Triple-A Scranton franchise through 2018, the team announced. The four-year extension is the maximum allowed. “We are excited. When we brought the franchise affiliation here in 2007, we told everyone we were here to stay and we meant business. We couldn’t be in a better place,” said Brian Cashman in a statement.

After a lengthy affiliation with the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees moved their Triple-A franchise to Scranton for the 2007 season and they’ve been there ever since. It’s a win-win relationship. The Bombers get to keep their extra players 90 minutes away and the Scranton franchise gets the marketing and business perks of being associated with the Yankees. Definite no-brainer and the extension was just a formality. There were no rumblings of moving the Triple-A squad elsewhere.

Sorting out the projected Triple-A Scranton roster

Almonte is likely to anchor the RailRiders' lineup. (Presswire)
Almonte is likely to anchor the RailRiders’ lineup. (Presswire)

Every offseason I put together a post looking at the projected Triple-A Scranton roster even though it’s almost completely unpredictable. So much can and will change between now and the start of the season that it’s impossible to pin down more than a few spots. At the same time, the Triple-A club is just an extension of the MLB club, so I think it’s important to look at. We’ll see a lot of these guys in the show next summer.

From the looks of it, the Yankees are planning to hold three competitions in Spring Training: one for the fifth starter’s spot, one for the extra infielder, and one for the bullpen in general. That last one will be a bunch of smaller competitions, really. Injuries could open up even more spots, as we learned last year. For now, here’s an early breakdown of who figures to head to Northeast Pennsylvania at the end of camp:

Infielders Outfielders Rotation Bullpen
Russ Canzler Zoilo Almonte LHP Manny Banuelos RHP Jim Miller
Corban Joseph Slade Heathcott RHP Bruce Billings RHP Mark Montgomery
Zelous  Wheeler Antoan Richardson LHP Nik Turley RHP Y. Tateyama
ST Comp. Loser 1 ST Comp. Loser 1 RHP Chase Whitley
ST Comp. Loser 2 ST Comp. Loser 2 ST Comp. Loser 1
Utility Guys
ST Comp. Loser 2
Catchers Ronnie Mustelier ST Comp. Loser 3
J.R. Murphy Jose Pirela
Austin Romine Yangervis Solarte

Barring injury, Frankie Cervelli will back up Brian McCann this summer, leaving Murphy and Romine for Triple-A. Murphy should get playing time priority but they’ll both get plenty of at-bats, including some at DH. I wouldn’t be surprised if Murphy sees some time at third base, as he has in the past. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the team carried a third catcher (Jose Gil?) if the plan is to regularly DH those guys on the days they aren’t catching. If so, Solarte or Wheeler could wind up with Double-A Trenton or released.

The infield is pretty straight forward. Canzler, Joseph, Pirela, and Wheeler will get an opportunity to win that last bench job with the big league team but they are at a disadvantage for various reasons. Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, and Dean Anna seem to have the best chance of winning that spot. The other guys will be there for show. The two losers of that competition (ST Comp. Loser 1 & 2) will wind up with the RailRiders. If I had to bet, I’d bet on Nunez and Anna landing in Triple-A with Sizemore in the big leagues. That’s just a guess though.

The outfield is mostly set. I do believe both Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores will return to Trenton to at least start the year. Midseason promotions are always possible, but Austin has to stay healthy and Flores has to hit before moving up becomes a realistic possibility. The biggest outfield wildcard is Almonte, who is the odds on favorite to take over as the MLB team’s extra outfielder should Ichiro Suzuki get traded. If not, he’ll play everyday in Triple-A and await the inevitable call-up due to injury. Mustelier, Solarte, and Pirela are utility men with experience all over the field, so that position player crop features quite a bit of versatility.

Billings was picked up last week to be the team’s veteran innings guy. Every minor league team needs one. That non-prospect you can run out there for 110 pitches every five days just to save the bullpen and lighten the load on the actual prospects. Turley pitched well enough last year to move up from Double-A and Banuelos is finally healthy after missing close to two full years. It’s possible he may start the season down in Tampa with the warm weather, however. The organization could ease him back into things that way, and no, I do not think he has a realistic chance of winning the fifth starter competition. He missed too much time and wasn’t a finished product before blowing out his elbow anyway.

(Tod Shapiro/Flat Iron Hot! News)
Pineda. (Flat Iron Hot! News)

That fifth starter competition will feature David Phelps, Adam Warren, Vidal Nuno, and Michael Pineda. Maybe David Huff as well, though I think he’s more likely to be removed from the 40-man roster in the coming weeks than anything. I think Phelps and Warren have to be considered the favorites in that competition and I expect both to be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. One as a starter and one as a long reliever. That would leave Nuno and Pineda for Triple-A, though Pineda could start the year in Tampa like Banuelos. After two missed years, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring him along slowly.

Miller, Montgomery, Whitley, and Yoshinori Tateyama are Triple-A holdovers without much of an opportunity to win a big league bullpen job. Getting passed over in the Rule 5 Draft tells us not a single team thinks Whitley can help at the MLB level right now. Montgomery needs to rebound from his injury-plagued year before getting a chance to become a big league factor. I suspect we’ll see him at some point in 2014, probably in the second half. He just hit a little developmental speed bump, that’s all. The slider is still nasty.

The group of guys expected to compete for a bullpen gig in camp is really long. I count eight pitchers in the running: Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Preston Claiborne, Robert Coello, Matt Daley, Brian Gordon, David Herndon, and Jose Ramirez. We can include Huff in this mix as well, but again, I don’t think he is long for the roster. Realistically, there are three bullpen spots open in Triple-A and three open in MLB behind David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, and Phelps/Warren. I’d love to see the Yankees sign two starters and push both Phelps and Warren down the depth chart another notch, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Eight pitchers for six spots means two guys are going to be left hanging, but that’s not worth worrying about now. Ramirez could step into the Triple-A rotation if Banuelos and/or Pineda start the year in Tampa and chances are someone will get hurt at some point. There are too many guys listed here to think they’ll all make it through Spring Training healthy. Spots will open in the coming weeks, guaranteed. Others like Danny Burawa (42 walks in 66 Double-A innings in 2013) and Pat Venditte (coming off shoulder surgery) figure to return to Trenton to open the year.

Unlike that fifth starter competition, I’m not sure we can handicap the bullpen competition right now. Betances, Cabral, Claiborne, and Daley may seem like they have a leg up, but Coello was pretty awesome before getting hurt last year and Ramirez could show up in Tampa and blow everyone away. Maybe Claiborne is at the front of the line after logging a decent amount of big league innings last summer, but otherwise I don’t think there’s much of a pecking order in the bullpen. Whoever impresses the most in camp will probably get the job, but either way, I’m willing to bet we’ll see a whole bunch of these guys in 2014.

As I said before, this is just a snapshot of the Triple-A Scranton roster. We learned last year just how much things can change during camp. For now it seems like a good chunk of the RailRiders roster is set aside from those competitions, which are vast and numerous. The Triple-A team is basically a taxi squad for the big league club and that will be especially true for the 2014 Yankees. Those competitions are not limited to Spring Training, remember. Those spots will be revolving doors all summer.

Looking at the Triple-A Scranton roster

(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.

Yankees No More: They’re the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders now

Via Donnie Collins: The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has officially changed its nickname from Yankees to RailRiders (one word). The new name and uniforms were unveiled at an event tonight. Here’s the new primary logo.

The Yankees reportedly asked their minor league affiliates to drop the “Yankees” nickname around this time last year, but so far only the Triple-A squad has obliged. Fans were able to vote for the team’s new nickname, and Collins says RailRiders easily won out over Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Porcupines, Trolley Frogs, and Fireflies. Porcupines came in second, hence their inclusion in the logo. Trolley Frogs got hosed, man.