The last time the Yankees had a infield regular under 5-foot-10 was Chuck Knoblauch, at 5-foot-9. Ronnier Mustelier is even shorter than that. In fact, Mustelier is shorter than Mike Gallego, the diminuitive shortstop for the Yankees in the early 1990′s just before the emergence of Derek Jeter. Gallego measured 5-foot-8. Mustelier is actually 5-foot-7, and based on some reports even that is generous.
Aside from having a physical quality that will make him an instant fan favorite upon his arrival with the Yankees, Mustelier has many qualities that are certain to give him a much better shot at sticking in the major leagues than say, Jorge Vazquez. Similar to Vazquez, Ronnier Mustelier can flat out hit. He doesn’t possess some of the same weaknesses that kept Vazquez from ever seeing a pitch for the Yankees. He can actually play the field, which was a serious hole in Vazquez’s game. He also doesn’t strike out much.
I would be remiss to exclude the two major factors working against Mustelier at this point; the aforementioned height issue and his age. His height, while it makes him a great story and inevitably well-liked by the fans, will be a disadvantage for him in the field, and will give scouts a reason to discount his power potential. In a small sample size at Trenton, however, he had five homeruns which is one off the league lead. He also had an OPS of 1.010 through 100 at bats. His overall triple slash is .351/.407/.577 across two levels this season.
If Mustelier was 22 years old, these stats would be impossible to ignore and he might even be considered a top prospect. The truth of the matter, however, is that he is 27 years old and it is very possible that he just hasn’t found his level yet. At 27, there isn’t going to be much more player development. If he reaches Triple-A and cannot hit there, he’s done. If he reaches the majors and cannot hit there, he’s done. As pessimistic as that sounds, I am actually very optimistic about Mustelier.
There is a good chance at this point that he will be able to hit major league pitching. It is too early to tell whether he can even hit at Triple-A, but his first few games would indicate that he has hit the ground running with no adjustment period. He is 3/9, and got gypped on what should have been a double by a scorekeeper in typical Empire State no home stadium Yankees fashion. He should really be 4/9.
There are other reasons to be optimistic. Every scout seems to be on the same page in that he can hit. The only questions surround his defense. According to Mike Ashmore at Trenton, he is solid at third base, average in the outfield, and a nightmare at second base (although he only saw him play there once). If he can truly play those three positions then he could be a great utility man for the Yankees, even if he is just “average” at all of them.
With his bat, he would be a great late game pinch hitter, and a great fill in for A-Rod, Cano, and the whole outfield. He also swings the bat right-handed, so getting Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson a break against a lefty is not out of the question.
It would appear that Ronnier Mustelier will spend the rest of the season in Triple-A. He is blocked by enough people that the Yankees are in a position to keep him there for now. If things change, Mustelier could quickly be in line for a promotion.
He is useful in many ways, and he’s already polished even for a 27 year old. He can hit and he can field, which are the only two facets of being a position player that are important in baseball when you get right down to it. The only things that stand in his way are his height and his age. If the Yankees can get past this, however, they may just have found themselves a diamond in the dirt, the dirt of Santiago de Cuba.