When rosters expanded to 40 on September 1, the Yankees summoned Jonathan Albaladejo (E-I-E-I-O), Greg Golson, and Chad Moeller from the minor leagues, but chose to leave other members of the 40-man roster to roost in the minors (at least until their respective seasons end). Why were only three players called? Who will be coming up soon to help with the stretch drive? Who isn’t coming at all? Let’s take a look.
Who’s at the Party
Jonathan Albaladejo, RHP, Triple-A Scranton: It’s no small wonder Albaladejo was brought up immediately; he has transformed himself beyond recognition from his spring training self. As Jay Jaffe noted, Albaledejo had an abomination of a spring and looked like one of the top candidates to get designated for assignment if there was a roster crunch. After he posted that 33.75 ERA, though, he went to Triple-A and got to work on his four-seamer, which has been his bread and butter. His strikeout rate has skyrocketed from 6.50 per nine last year in Triple-A to 11.65 per nine this season, and he has a sterling 4.56 strikeout to walk ratio. He does have an extremely friendly .266 batting average on balls in play, but when you strike out as many batters as he has and keep your walks plus hits per inning pitched at 0.88, chances are you’re going to get some weak hacks from defensive batters.
This is Alba’s last option year, so the Yankees will have to decide if the improvements the righty has made are real. If the Puerto Rican keeps chugging along at his current place, you can bet that the Yankees will find a spot for him next year. As for this season, if he is lights-out down the stretch, the Yankees might try to Frankie Rodriguez him into the playoffs.
Greg Golson, OF, Triple-A Scranton: When rosters are limited to 25 players, teams don’t have the luxury of carrying someone simply because they double as jackrabbits. Former Phillies first-round pick Golson came to the Yankees via the Texas Rangers for minor-league infielder Mitch Hilligoss. Since arriving, he has mainly been stored in Scranton, though he did make a cameo appearance in the Bronx and picked up a couple of hits. Put simply, he’s in the Bronx for pinch-running and defensive duties to give the regulars some breathers and the Yankees a chance to put a runner in scoring position in tight contests.
Golson’s major problem has always been strikeouts; he has horrid pitch recognition, though he has made some strides in that department. Even so, he had 99 punch-outs in 415 plate appearances in Scranton, so it’s still an issue. He also doesn’t reach base much—he had a .313 on-base percentage in Triple-A—so his .263 batting average contains a lot of empty calories. I doubt that the Yankees will keep him beyond the season, though there is the slight possibility they sneak him onto a playoff roster to play—well, run—the role Freddy Guzman had in 2009.
Chad Moeller, C, Triple-A Scranton: This just makes sense. The Yankees have a 39-year-old catcher in Jorge Posada, who needs time off the barking knees (and possibly feet and right shoulder), and giving him plenty of rest to make sure he stays healthy enough to hit will be key to the team surviving deep into October. Francisco Cervelli has been doing a major portion of the catching duties and has taken more than his fair share of foul tips, so giving the energetic backstop some time off certainly couldn’t hurt. Moeller is a warm body to stick behind the dish who can handle a pitching staff. I know, it’s not Jesus Montero, but there’s a reason for that, as I’ve explained before: Moeller can be designated for assignment after the season with no harm done, but Montero would have to be put on the roster before he is required to be, and would have to be exposed to waivers to take him off. The New York Daily News’ Mark Feinsand confirmed my reasoning several weeks later, and it makes sense, since there was nearly zero chance the Yankees could manage to smuggle the slugger onto the playoff roster anyway.
Moeller won’t hit much, or get on base much. Heck, he won’t slug much. But he’ll do as a stopgap and inning absorber, earning a big-league salary to take a big-league beating late in games to spare the Yankees’ top two catchers. He has already proved to be valuable after Posada got tossed for arguing balls and strikes, and that’s the sort of role the Yankees are hoping he will fulfill (minus the coming-in-for-ejections part).
Who’s Late to the Party
Colin Curtis, OF, Triple-A Scranton: Outfield depth is handy to have, and Curtis is probably the minor-league outfielder on the team who has the best tools for a major-league future. Never great in the minor leagues, Colin blossomed in the Arizona Fall League. The AFL is a hitter’s league, no question, but Curtis has continued to play well this season, so it looks like he has turned a corner and could someday be someone’s fourth outfielder. Though the lefty isn’t bashing the ball over the wall like he did in Arizona, he does have 23 doubles in only 234 at-bats, a very solid number.
Curtis’s is an awesome story, as he survived testicular cancer and has fought his way up through the system to reach the majors. During interleague play, he did a very nice job pinch-hitting. His best moment came against the Angels on July 21. After Brett Gardner was tossed with an 0-2 count for arguing balls and strikes, Curtis came to the dish and walloped his first career jack into the right-field stands on the first pitch he saw off the bench. He’s a much better hitter than Golson, so perhaps the Yankees will look to use him off the bench in the playoffs.
Chad Huffman, OF, Triple-A Scranton: A waiver wire claim from the San Diego Padres, Huffman also got his first taste of the major leagues this season. He has more home-run power than Curtis does, and the Houston native has put up a .276/.355/.403 year in Scranton. Those numbers don’t translate to big future in the majors beyond fourth- or fifth-outfielderdom, but it’s something. However, the Bombers may well cut bait with the righty at the end of the season because of the need for Rule 5 roster spots. At that level of production, he’s replaceable.
Juan Miranda, 1B, Triple-A Scranton: Of the hitters who will be called up in September, Miranda is the one with the greatest chance to make an impact with his bat. There is no doubt that the maybe-27-year-old Cuban has mashability, and bringing up someone who can pinch-hit for, say, Cervelli, and get a double or homer definitely has its value.
However, this is the Yankees’ fourth option year for Miranda. After this season, they must keep him on the roster or lose him to free agency. As his true age is up for debate and his production isn’t spectacular for a first baseman, he’ll probably be allowed to leave while the Yanks scour minor-league free agents and their own farm system to find his replacement at Triple-A. Miranda could be useful at the major-league level if a team were to platoon him as a designated hitter with someone who crushes lefties; Miranda’s minor-league split against righties is .303/.395/.549.
Kevin Russo, INF, Triple-A Scranton: With Ramiro Pena already slotted in as the utility infielder, Russo is sticking in Scranton for now. After riding the big-league pine for two months and seeing little action, he needs the extra ABs before coming back for more inactivity. Russo had some trouble getting back in the swing of things when he was sent down, so the Yankees are looking to make sure he doesn’t rust over before they call him up.
Romulo Sanchez, RHP, Triple-A Scranton: Sanchez isn’t in New York right now because he’s on the seven-day minor-league disabled list with an arm injury. When he’s off the DL and has rehabbed a bit, expect him to pack his bags for the Bronx.
Who’s Not Invited…Yet (or not coming)
Alfredo Aceves, RHP, A Hospital to be Named Later: Aceves has been struggling through his rehab assignment as he attempts to come back from a back injury. Last night, he was scratched from a rehab appearance in Trenton and sent back to New York to check in with a doctor. It doesn’t look like he’ll be in the Bronx in the near future—well, maybe in a warm-up jersey.
Andrew Brackman, RHP, Double-A Trenton: I list the jumbo righty here for a couple of reasons. One, he hasn’t pitched above Double-A. Two, he has nearly 30 more innings pitched than last season. The Yankees can’t afford to give him an opportunity to get hurt at the major-league level when he is already older than his Double-A competition and needs to move up to Triple-A next season. He will probably be shut down after Trenton’s run through the playoffs.
Reegie Corona, INF, Triple-A Scranton: It has been a rough year for Corona, as he couldn’t put bat to ball at all while he was healthy, and now he’s down for the year with a broken arm.
Wilkin De La Rosa, LHP, Double-A Trenton: No way. The southpaw showed tons of potential when he broke out last year in Trenton as a converted pitcher, but this season, he has been smacked around regularly while repeating the level. His strikeout to walk ratio is horrible (55/41), and his WHIP stands at 1.72. Sure, a .339 BABIP is bad, but a pitcher also has to try to prevent putting runners on. De La Rosa is most definitely not major-league ready.
Jesus Montero, C, Triple-A Scranton: I just had to say it again to make it super-official.
Hector Noesi, RHP, Triple-A Scranton: Noesi has barely arrived in Triple-A; let’s let him collect his bearings before dumping big-leaguers on him. He only has one start at his new level, and he has nearly 40 more innings pitched than he did last season. The Bombers will likely pull the plug on his season when Scranton’s playoff run is over because of the major innings increase.