Top 10 Prospects: The New York Yankees

1. Jesus Montero, C
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2006 (Venezuela)
2010 Level: AAA (International League)
Age on Opening Day: 21.4

Notes: One of the best pure hitter in the minors, there isn’t much Montero can’t do at the plate. He is extremely strong, and has the balance and quick hands to drive the ball to all fields. He got off to a slow start in his first taste of AAA in 2010, but he rebounded to post a more-than-respectable overall line of 289/353/517 and a career high 21 home runs. Unlike many power hitters, Montero is tough to strikeout. He struck out in only 20.1 percent of his at-bats last year, and that was even higher than his 2009 rate of 13 percent. While there are few questions abut Montero’s bat, there are plenty about his defense. He has improved over the past couple of seasons to the point where he is now merely well below-average behind the plate, but he is still not good enough to profile as an every-day catcher. He committed 15 passed balls in 2010, a total surpassed by only four other teams in the fourteen-team International league, and he only threw out 23 percent of would-be base-stealers. Still, Montero’s ability to fill in behind the plate has value. He could serve as a team’s everyday DH, as well as filling in as the back-up catcher, saving a roster spot and probably around a million dollars for his team.

Bill James projects Montero to hit for a .375 wOBA in 442 plate appearances at the major-league level in 2011. While James’ projections are often bullish on prospects, the projection illustrates the point that Montero has the potential to have an impact bat. Assuming the Yankees break camp healthy, Montero should begin the year in AAA, but the bat looks ready if and when he’s needed.

2. Gary Sanchez, C
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2009 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: RC/NYP
Age on Opening Day: 18.3

Notes: In many respects, Sanchez is a younger version of Montero. Both players have huge offensive ceilings, featuring the ability to hit for both average and big-time power. In 195 plate appearances across the Gulf Coast and the New York-Penn leagues, Sanchez slugged 8 home runs and put up a 329/393/543 line, remarkable numbers for a teenage catcher. It’s worth noting that his overall line was aided by a .388 BABIP, but it’s not all together together uncommon for talented players to post high BABIPs at the lower levels. Sanchez strikes out a bit more than Montero, whiffing in 25.4 percent of his at-bats, but given his youth, it’s not especially concerning. Defensively, Sanchez has a legitimate shot to remain behind the plate long-term. If he remains a catcher, his offensive ceiling is high enough that he could become a perennial all-star. He’ll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2011, and if he gets off to a good start, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him finish the year in Hi A.

3. Manny Banuelos, LHP
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2008 (Mexico)
2010 Level: H+/AA
Age on Opening Day: 20.1

Notes: The start of Banuelos’ season was delayed due to appendectomy, but he was lights out after returning midway through the season. In 44 innings in the Florida State league, Banuelos posted a 2.33 ERA despite surrendering a BABIP of .356, and he continued to pitch well in a brief stint in AA. Only listed at 5-foot-10, 155 pounds, durability will always be a concern for Banuelos, but when he’s been healthy, he’s put up impressive numbers. In Hi A, Banuelos had a 12.6 K/9 and a BB/9 of only 2.8 before being promoted. Add in a respectable GB% of 45 percent, and there isn’t much to quibble with from a statistical perspective. Scouting reports are equally as glowing. Despite his stature, Banuelos has the arm strength, command, and secondary stuff to profile at the front of a rotation. After throwing only 64 innings last year, the key for Banuelos in 2011 is to stay healthy. If he turns in a healthy season, he is polished enough that he could press for a big-league call-up in September. Although, 2012 is probably a more realistic ETA. He could profile as high as a number two starter.

4. Dellin Betances, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 8th Round 2006 (New York HS)
2010 Level: H+/AA
Age on Opening Day: 23.0

Notes: Standing 6’8″, 260 pounds and throwing in the mid-90s with a solid breaking ball, Betances is one of the most imposing pitchers in the minor leagues. With such a great combination of size and stuff, Betances has a chance to become a front-of-the-rotation starter, but he’s been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career. After struggling last year in Hi A, he was shut down, eventually undergoing surgery to reinforce a ligament in his arm. Healthy in 2010, he had a breakout season, pitching well in the Florida State league and earning a promotion to AA at the end of the year. For much of his career, Betances struggled with his control, but when he came back in 2010 he was a new man, walking only  2.4 batters per nine in 77 innings in Hi A. His stuff was as good as ever, too, allowing him to rack up a K/9 of 11.2. Those are obviously exceptional numbers, but it’s important to note that he was also the beneficiary of a .251 BABIP and a HR/FB rate of only 1 percent. I’m also not completely sold that he will show the same level of control in 2011. It’s extremely rare for a pitcher with control problems to undergo surgery and come back with better control than before. Still, few prospects can match Betances’ ceiling. But I think some prospect watchers are getting a little overzealous on Betances.

5. Andrew Brackman, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 1st Round 2007 (NC State)
2010 Level: A+/AA
Age on Opening Day: 25.4

Notes: At 6-foot-10, it’s not a surprise that Brackman starred in both baseball and basketball at North Carolina State. The Yankees fell in love with his size and athleticism, taking him 30th overall and signing to him to a major-league contract worth over $4.5 million. The signing was considered an overpay by many in the industry, and after Brackman’s first two professional seasons it appeared as though the naysayers were right. His pro debut was delayed until 2009 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, and when he came back a 6.4 BB/9 and diminished stuff clouded his prospect status. But Brackman rebounded with a solid 2010 season. Despite a 5.10 ERA, he threw the ball extremely well. His K/9 was 8.4 and he walked only 1.4 batters per nine. Those numbers got a little worse upon his promotion to AA- his K/9 fell to 7.8 and his BB/9 increased to 3.4- but he continued to get ground-balls at a 52 percent rate. The chance that Brackman becomes an ace is slim- he has work to do in developing his change-up and his fastball doesn’t have quite the same velocity it once did. Still, depending upon the strides he makes next year he could become a solid mid-rotation option, or a late-inning reliever.

6. Austin Romine, C
Acquired: Drafted 2nd Round 2007 (California HS)
2010 Level: AA
Age on Opening Day: 22.4

Notes: The Yankees have an enviable amount of catching prospects in their system. The problem is that none are sure bets to stay behind the plate. Despite a strong arm, Romine struggles to throw out runners, catching only 23 percent of would-be base-stealers last year. What’s more, reports from the AFL were critical of his receiving ability (although the usually caveats with grading catchers based on AFL looks apply). If Romine can’t catch at the big league level, his prospect status value takes a big hit because while he shows promise at the plate, it’s highly unlikely his bat will profile at first or in the outfield. His walk rate has increased in each of his professional seasons, rising to 7.4 percent last year, but there is still work to be done in that area. He slugged ten home runs to go with a .138 ISO last year, solid numbers for a 21 year-old catcher in AA.

Grading catchers is always tough because the offensive bar is so low. If he can improve his defense, Romine could profile as a regular. He should reach AAA in 2011, but the Yanks may choose to start him in AA with Montero likely entrenched in AAA. With a solid season he could position himself as the catcher of the future in New York.

7. Eduardo Nunez, SS
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2004 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: AAA/MLB
Age on Opening Day: 23.10

Notes: Signed in 2004, it took Nunez five seasons to reach AA, including three separate trips to the Florida State league. But since reaching AA in 2009, Nunez seems to have turned a corner. Scouts have always been impressed by his strong arm and range at short, but questions lingered about his bat. He began to answer those questions in 2009 by putting up a 322/349/433 line, and he continued to show promise at the plate last year. In 506 AAA plate appearances, Nunez posted a .329 wOBA to go with 23 steals. While he never projects to hit more than 8-10 home runs in a season, Nunez does have enough pop to keep pitchers honest. He was promoted to the big leagues late in the 2010 season, and performed well enough to earn a spot on the postseason roster. For the Yankees, Nunez is never likely to be more than a utility player, because while his defense is solid, he’s not a true above-average defender and, as a hitter who doesn’t walk or hit for much power, his offensive ceiling is limited. That being said, Nunez does enough things well that I think he will start for a number of years as a ‘second-division’ regular.

8. Ivan Nova, RHP
Aquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2004 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: AAA/MLB
Age on Opening Day: 24.3

Notes: Nova enters 2011 as the leading candidate to seize the Yanks’ firth starter’s spot. Selected by the Padres in the 2008 Rule 5 draft, Nova doesn’t do anything especially well, but he has few weaknesses. His fastball averaged 93 mph in the big leagues last year, and he also features a solid curveball and a change-up (video). His fastball has good life, allowing him to rack up a GB% of 54 percent in AAA and 52 percent in the big leagues. At 6’4″, 210 pounds, Nova has a great pitcher’s frame and a relatively smooth delivery. Nova doesn’t have much star potential, as his K/9 rate has never been above 7.2 in a full-season league, but he has the stuff to profile in the back of a big-league rotation. Fans, Bill James, and Marcel all seem to agree with that assessment, projecting that Nova’s 2011 FIP will be in the 4.08-4.28 range, although those projections have him splitting time between the pen and the rotation.

9. Hector Noesi, RHP
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent 2004 (Dominican Republic)
2010 Level: Hi A/AA/AAA
Age on Opening Day: 24.2

Notes: Noesi underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, and it wasn’t until 2009 that he was back fully healthy. He made up for lost time last season, climbing the ladder from the Florida State league all the way to AAA and logging 160 innings along the way. In a lot of ways, Noesi is a classic ‘Twins’ pitcher, as command and control are his calling cards. He walked only 1.6 batters per nine in 2010, and his exceptional command allowed him to carve up FSL hitters to the tune of a 11.1 K/9. His strikeout rate fell to 7.8 against more experienced hitters in AA, and he doesn’t figure to rack up big strikeout totals at higher levels. The other knock on Noesi is that he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher. In 99 AA innings he only managed a meager 39 percent ground-ball rate. The lack of a true out-pitch and his fly-ball rates will likely prevent Noesi from becoming more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.

10. Adam Warren, RHP
Acquired: Drafted 4th Round 2009 (North Carolina)
2010 Level: Hi A/AA
Age on Opening Day: 23.7

Notes: Only one year removed from the 2009 draft, it looks like the Yankees may have gotten a steal in Warren. The 6’1″ right-hander pounds the zone with a low-90s fastball, as evidenced by his 2.2 BB/9. The pitch has such great life that he is able to rack up strikeouts and ground-balls with it. In 135 innings combined between Hi A and AA, Warren managed an 8.4 K/9 and a ground-ball rate of 54 percent. He doesn’t have the secondary stuff to profile as more than a mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter, but his fastball is good enough that he has a relatively high floor. Warren will likely begin the year in a crowded Scranton rotation, and could make his major-league debut at some point during the season.




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64 Responses to “Top 10 Prospects: The New York Yankees”

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  1. Daniel says:

    Montero is your future DH, and Sanchez looks to be Posada’s true heir. Not a bad position to be in, but man, the Yankees might have some defensive issues behind the plate in the near future.

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    • David K says:

      Or, the Yankees can do what they often do, use one or both of these guys as trade bait to acquire a more proven, veteran player.

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    • Matty Brown says:

      I think they are better off with Martin starting behind the plate for the near future. Shift Montero to LF to play beside Jeter in CF.

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      • Scooby says:

        You’re assuming a lot thinking that Montero is capable of playing the OF and Jeter has a strong enough arm to play CF. Montero is either going to catch or DH for the Yankees.

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      • Matty Brown says:

        I was being facetious about Jeter in CF

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    • Raf says:

      They’ve had Posada, Mike Stanley and Matt Nokes catching a bulk the past 15-20 years, I think the Yankees are used to having catchers with defensive issues.

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      • MikeD says:

        True, although Stanley and Nokes were catchers prior to 1996. The Yankees of the early 90s were not a good ballclub, and in fairness to Posada, he was a much defender than either of those guys.

        They clearly thrived with Posada and his less-than-stellar defense from the late 90s forward, and I believe their thinking is correct. A strong offensive catcher with some defensive shortcomings has great value. The issue, though, is the assumption by many that Montero can be as good a defensive player as Posada was, and I believe that’s incorrect. Posada during his prime was an acceptable catcher, rating average to slightly below average. Montero is a long way from being in Posada’s class. Even Posada today, when he clearly is well-below average, is a better defender than Montero.

        My guess is they should use Montero as a part-time catcher, maybe 40 times a year, have him back up at first for another ten games or so, and DH another 100 games. That way his bat is in the lineup 150 games, but they’ll also have the DH slot available for another 60 games where they can rotate some of their older players, like Jeter and A-Rod. Montero is young enough that he could eventually replace Teixeira at first in four or five years and still only be in his mid-20s.

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      • tony says:

        your 100 % correct

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      • cgehring says:

        The draft is a crapshoot; just like the postseason.

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      • Gehring says:

        Thanks for the information, nigger.

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  2. Jamal G. says:

    Considering the amount of value they have received from the position over the past decade-plus with Jorge Posada, defensive stalwart, I don’t think they mind all that much. Especially if any one of these backstop prospects reach their respective offensive ceilings.

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    • Joel says:

      So because Posada gave the Yanks great value in the past, it’s OK that they will have weak D behind the plate in the future? Is there a logical connection there?

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      • Alvaro says:

        If the offensive value makes up for the lackluster defense (the case with Posada and implied case for Montero and Sanchez) then yes it is, I dont see the problem with his reasoning

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      • Ben says:

        That seems like a pretty logical connection to me. The Yankees have determined that great offensive production outweighs the loss of defense at the catching position in the past. If faced with a similar choice, one could logically conclude that they’d make a similar choice moving forward.

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      • Preston says:

        Consider the Yankees the anti-Angels who believe that good defense behind the plate justifies Jeff Mathis’s Bat.

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    • tony says:

      yes how many titles did they win with that formula ? its very logical

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  3. Chris V. says:

    Good list. Pretty sure Sanchez with be 18 this year not 19.

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  4. Paul says:

    Love the video links on Nova and Nunez. Someone needs to explain to me how outside of this list Nova gets no love while Pineda, who has very similar stuff, is the second coming. Super duper sleeper for me.

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    • Preston says:

      It’s because they are leftists…

      Pineda is also younger and k’s more.

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    • Mikhel says:

      Cool… Nova had a better season than Pineda with a better defense playing behind him than what Nova had, specially with Núñez in the infield.

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  5. MikeS says:

    So Sanchez and Montero were both signed at 17? Is there a minimum age for signing players?

    This, by the way, is a very good argument against why a salary cap won’t work. If you limit the Yankees to $100M MLB payroll, they will just take the $100M savings and use it to sign a hundred latin teenagers to million dollar bonuses every year and have a huge pool of cost controlled talent. If you close that loophole they will pay 1000 scouts $100K a year to scour the earth for talent. Money will always be an advantage. Somehow you would have to limit the total payroll of all employees (not just players) of the big league club and all it’s affiliates combined or else the big money clubs just use the same big money in more creative ways.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      Revenue sharing (or the pipe dream of more teams in the market) is far, far better than a cap.

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    • snapper says:

      16 for int’l FAs, 18 for US draft, IIRC.

      Adrian Beltre became a FA b/c he was signed before age 16.

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      • Mike says:

        Harper was just drafted before the age of 18. It’s actually just graduating highschool I believe in the US (Although Harper had to get his GED after his sophomore year, play 1 year at a CC, then could be drafted, donno how that worked.)

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    • Steve says:

      Basically your argument is that the Yankees shouldn’t be allowed to sign good players.

      Because I’m pretty sure Montero signed for all of about $2M. MUCH less than the A’s gave Ynoa, the Jays gave Hechavarria, the Royals gave Arguelles, or all sorts of other IFA’s signed by small market teams.

      But I do agree that Aroldis Chapman should have a big impact in the Bronx this year.

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  6. Steve O. says:

    No peak WAR?

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    • Jim says:

      This is a Reed McPhail Top 10–when Reed writes them, we don’t get peak WAR, for whatever reason. They are only featured in Marc’s Top 10s.

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  7. Chops says:

    Nova ahead of Noesi?

    I thought Noesi was a much better prospect.

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    • Steve O. says:

      I guess he likes Nova’s groundballs better. I think Noesi’s command/control is a better combination, but oh well.

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  8. Matt says:

    Bummer, I’ve been looking forward to this one for months to see the peak WAR estimates.

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  9. Eric says:

    Am I the only one who thinks there is zero chance Montero is on the Yankees after July 31, and it probably won’t take that long. This team is loaded with catching prospects who can actually catch. They simply have no room for another DH, short term or long term, and they have a glaring need to upgrade their rotation.

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    • Matt says:

      I don’t think there is anyone on the market that’s worth trading him for and the Yankees know it. If for some crazy reason Felix became available than I’m sure he would be traded, but right now the Yankees are much more likely to keep him and see if he can become even a passable catcher. Especially with Martin not 100% and Cervelli a sinkhole with the bat. Plus the rest of their catching depth is years away unless you believe in Romine, which I don’t.

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    • Steve says:

      I would have been more inclined to agree with you a month ago, but it seems like the coaching staff is falling head over heels for Jesus this spring.

      I think reports of his defensive ineptitude have been wildly exaggerated.

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      • blackoutyears says:

        It was just one game, and he caught the starter (Nova) in Triple-A last year, but he looked viable the other day. I like the idea of DHing him and using him as the back-up catcher. Much more reasonable than the either/or propositions most are offering, and it gets his bat in the lineup many more times a year than FT catcher rest necessities generally dictate.

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      • Eric says:

        Isn’t that exactly what you say when you are trying to build trade value? What else are they going to say?

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  10. Jack says:

    completely agreed…..i think montero, if dealt at all, will be dealt in a year or two assuming sanchez continues to progress the way he has been. and like matt says, there is absolutely no one worth dealing the # 3 prospect in the game for at this moment. it would have to be a king felix type scenario, which is obviously a long shot. plus, russell martin could easily flame out/ injure himself this yr, in which case the yanks need montero

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  11. Eric says:

    I geuss it makes sense to let the kid try catching, but what happens when Burnett blames him for his problems? Or CC? Etc

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    • blackoutyears says:

      Have him catch Nova, Mitre, Banuelos, whoever ends up with the fifth starter job. If he’s the back-up you probably make him one guy’s personal catcher and don’t use him for guys like Burnett (for obvious reasons).

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      • Preston says:

        AJ needs a personal catcher. Someone who catches his games, his warmups, his bullpens, his side-sessions, everything. Let’s face it he needs someone who is constantly with him as an emotional crutch.

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  12. Hank says:

    Reed: How far down on the list are Laird (who seems to be a AAAA player with a decent bat but no real position) and Heathcott?

    After Nunez, who would be the next position player on the prospect list? (Not moving one of the catchers to another position!)

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    • Ya, I kept Laird off because, as you mention, he’s a bit of a ‘tweener’. I’d take Heathcott and Culver before him. Murphy and Laird are pretty comparable for me.

      I like Heathcott, he probably would have ranked 12th, if I had kept going, but he just didn’t put up enough numbers to justify being any higher.

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      • Hank says:

        Thanks for the response… it’s much appreciated when you (and other FG writers) take the time to read through the comments and answer some of them.

        Heatchcott could be interesting (and I agree he’s not top 10 at this point) and I have no idea on Culver (he’s still too far away), but both have more upside than Laird for sure.

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  13. Eric says:

    Isn’t Posada the full-time DH? Are there any AB to give Montero at DH after Posada and Arod?

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    • Scooby says:

      If Russell Martin isn’t fully healthy, I can see them carrying three catchers with the third being Francisco Cervelli. I still want Montero to start the year in AAA.

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  14. Jonathan says:

    It seems that Nuñez, with a ceiling of “second-division regular” does not belong at #7, much less in the top-10. Are the Yanks really that thin outside of the top-6 guys. I’d rather have Noesi, Phelps, Stoneburner, Heathcott or Culver instead of Nuñez.

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    • He doesn’t have the upside of the guys you mentioned, but his ‘floor’ is so high that he is still a valuable prospect, especially considering the relative weakness of MLB short stops today.

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  15. Evan3457 says:

    I’m a lonely voice, but I think Montero will be the Yanks regular catcher, starting in 2012, and continuing until Sanchez is ready to take over.

    There’ll be some ugly games against the Ellsbury/Crawford/Pedroia Sox, and the Maddon Rays, but he’ll get his share of big hits in, too.

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  16. Mike says:

    Girardi has said that it’s possible he could break camp with the team and catch 2 or 3 days (I assume he means that he would catch 2 pitchers like Posada did his first year or two) a week and DH 1. He would have to be hitting well to justify that 1 DH a week given all the competition (Posada, every regular over 30, Andrew Jones).

    I think he goes to triple A for at least a couple months. Unless he is absolutely killing the ball in spring training, I don’t see much benefit in forcing him into the lineup when you’re not sure how well he will do. He struggled mightily the first two months of last season. I’m sure they want to avoid having to send him back down to the minors after being on the team. The issue of delaying arbitration clock is also a consideration, though obviously not to the same extent as it is for other teams.

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  17. rayray129 says:

    It would be great to see andrew brackman, manny banuelos, dellin betance, come to the big leagues for the yankees and just dominate calling them the killer b’s. I hope the yankees don’t trade these guys I like what they have to show. goooooooooo yankees

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  18. BWEST says:

    Six of the Yankees top 10 and the top 3 in the minors are Latin signings. This is why the Yankees are great. It’s not rocket science, you have to invest in a scouting dept that scoures the planet for talent. They deserve to win because they make the investment. I am not a Yankees fan but you have to give them props for their Latin scouting.

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    • yanksrcool05 says:

      While the Yankees certainly spend a lot in IFA, I add that it is unfair to totally discount the resources they out into it + development. Bnuelos signed for what? 100,000?

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  19. marcinAZ24 says:

    Personally, I for one am sick and tired of fans using money as an excuse for their Billionaire owner being a tight wad. If money bought rings then the Yanks of Red Sox would win every year, not every 5th year

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  20. tony says:

    bring up somebody,anybody.they can’t do any worse then what is there now! they are “Pathetic”..put the Pasada soap opera to rest.it’s getting stale.cashman needs to wake-up & shake this team up,”Now” or is it toooooooo late???i can’t stand to watch them anymore.

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    • Mikhel says:

      Did you enjoy the RedSoxcalypse? i loved it when the Yanks “suddenly” couldn’t win against the Rays, though Proctor looked like he didn’t get the memo about the Rays needing to win to either force an extra game or eliminate the sox… man that was sweet! And to top it off, the yanks won the division when nobody gave a cent for them before the season began, LOL. The sox got hit as hard that they ended up without manager and GM

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  21. Get rid of their minor league manager, cut Pasada loose and drop Jeter to the 8th or 9th spot. They need to get a quality starter [ sooner than later] and another reliver to replace Joba. If they want to compete with the Red Sox they will also need to add a batter who can drive in runs. A.J. is more of a liability than an asset at best 500 pitcher with a 6 year olds mentality, possibly he could be traded even if they had to pay part of his salary. REYE’S would be worth a lot to this YANKEE team.

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  23. wigsynthetic says:

    Are you seeking out air fare deals for use on your next vacation? You are able to still consult with a traveling agent however, but your best bet what food was in the tips on your fingers.The on-line world is swarming with the help of travel sites that offer great air travel deals, not to mention hotel together with resort places to stay, all inclusive deals, not to mention cruise/air specials.You may start by exploring Expedia (dot com), Travelocity, Cheaptickets, Orbitz or the websites of aircraft themselves that give flights for you to where you must go.Very often air fare is about certain airlines are simply posted online.If you can be flexible concerning travel occasions and schedules, then necessarily check available Priceline where you can get awesome cheap air travel deals to the majority any destination.

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    Spring is an effective time associated with year to build travel plans for long looked forward to summer vacations and saturday and sunday getaways.There are many cheap air travel deals can be found online and nowadays just awaiting you to discover.Why generate and spend all the time in your own vehicle as soon as you could already be there having a great? Timing is usually everything and the sooner you no doubt know your availability as well pertinent information the earlier you can use those great vacation packages including hotel room and air fare deals in your case and the entire family.For everybody who is available for the purpose of travel through off year, there really are numerous choices for quite a few popular destinations, most by means of cheap air travel deals to boot! You better move on – certainly no fun getting!!

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