Josh Norris broke the news about minor league assignments on Friday. It was a good news for some, bad news for others.
Ray Kruml and Austin Krum may have been pleasantly surprised by making the Triple-A team as outfielders. There were really no surprises in Double-A Trenton or High-A Tampa. Will Oliver and Wilton Rodriguez were probably excited to be on Charleston’s roster, as starters no less. Gary Sanchez was not surprised to find out he was starting off in Charleston again this year, while Kelvin De Leon may have been a bit disappointed with his assignment there.
There are few players who can justifiably feel snubbed, however several players were sent to extended Spring Training who could have started in Charleston. The following discussion examines whether or not the Yankees should have moved these players into full season ball.
Evan DeLuca is the most surprising omission from the Charleston River Dogs roster. He pitched reasonably well in Staten Island last year, with a 4.27 ERA and 43 K in 46 IP. His major issue was that he walked 32 batters in that span. He’ll be 21 years old this season though, which means this is a significant setback in his career. He’s 6-foot-1, 195-pounds and he’s a lefty. He gets the fastball up to 94 mph, and he also throws a curve ball and a changeup. DeLuca may yet end up in Charleston before season’s end, but missing the cut this season was definitely a disappointment.
Another player who some expected to be in Low-A this year is Daniel Lopez. You can read about him here. He’ll be 20 years old this season with exceptional speed and base stealing ability and developing power. Signed for his speed and athleticism, he has always been seen as a long term project for the Yankees, but he seems to be catching on fast. The outfield is pretty stacked in Charleston, so there’s not a ton of space for him there. He spent most of last season in the GCL, with a few at bats in the DSL and a few at bats in Charleston at the very end of the season.
His quadruple slash was .347/.413/.490/.904, and he had 3 HR and a whopping 27 SB in 61 games. If I had it my way, Daniel Lopez would be in Charleston. He has a low strikeout rate and a mature plate approach. The one justification for keeping him in Short Season-A is that he is raw, but his offseason workout regiment and the improving strength and power are reason enough to start him in Charleston in my opinion. There is a good chance he will be there by season’s end.
The Yankees are being cautious with another young, immensely talented outfielder named Ravel Santana. Ravel had a quadruple slash of .297/.361/.568/.929 in the GCL last season, hitting 9 HR and stealing 10 bases in just 41 games. He is the best combination of speed and power in the entire system, and he’s a superb defender. His most impressive skill is his arm. Many scouts have noted that the ball comes out of his hand like it’s being shot out of a cannon. He’s a prime candidate to become a 5-tool player.
The main question with Ravel Santana now is the “gruesome” lower leg injury he suffered last season. It was speculated that he wouldn’t return until midway through the 2012 season. They were correct, but only because he is going to extended Spring Training. He is not currently on the rehab list, and word out of camp is that he is running very well. He has already participated in a few games. The Yankees are probably right to be careful, as it would be a shame to see him re-injure the leg or suffer another injury because he’s overcompensating. He’ll be 20 to start the season, so he’s still on track. He’s 6-foot-2 with room to fill out, and will develop even more power as he bulks up.
There were a few other players competing for a starting job in Charleston, including Taylor Morton, Daniel Camarena, and Rafael DePaula. Brett Gerritse also had a case for a relief slot in Low-A. For various reasons, they all ended up in extended Spring Training. All could see time in Charleston by the end of the season depending on their performance. One of the names I was surprised to see on the rehab list was Matt Tracy. Apparently he pulled a muscle in his leg. He’ll be in Charleston for sure when he’s ready.
There are 12 starting pitchers in extended Spring Training. There are 10 rotation spots between the GCL and Short Season-A. Obviously that math doesn’t add up, so some of these starters are going to have to be in Charleston by the time the short season leagues begin. This is unlikely to be a problem, since any number of scenarios could lead to a vacancy in that starting rotation rather quickly. There could be call-ups, injuries, ineffectiveness, moves to the bullpen, etc. Being sent to extended Spring Training is not the worse thing in the world for most of these players. It will give them time to work on things before starting the season, and most of them are young enough where full season ball is not a huge priority yet.