With the rotation depleted by injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees are already dipping into the depth at AAA to see if Adam Warren can help weather the storm until the regulars return. Before the season began, names like Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos would have likely been the first to spring to mind when considering rotation replacements, but they are both pretty much eliminated from the discussion because of ineffectiveness and injuries that have plagued them both all season. There may be a tiny shred of hope for them when rosters expand in September, but it seems to be becoming less and less of a possibility with Betances being demoted to AA and ManBan still on the DL.
Thanks to the injuries the Yankees have already dealt with, you likely know that the upper levels of the minor league system aren't much to write home about. The big names like Banuelos, Betances, and Austin Romine have been hurt or terrible, which leaves a lot of utility, Quad-A, journeyman, senior citizen types that don't excite a whole lot of people.
The Yankees will almost certainly be tied to numerous names as the trade deadline approaches, but in the jumble of AAA mediocrity are a few guys who have been playing well enough to think that they could potentially be worthy of a call up as the season progresses.
Adam Warren - RHP: Warren makes his Yankee debut tonight in place of the injured CC Sabathia, which may determine whether he stays in the majors to fill in for Andy Pettitte instead of Freddy Garcia or is banished back to the Empire State Traveling Road Show indefinitely. Warren was on the verge of getting the call last year for a spot start when the Yankees went out and acquired Brian Gordon instead, so I'm happy he's finally getting at least one shot to show what he can do. The 2012 season started off rough for him, but he has pitched to a 3.86 ERA in 86.1 innings on the year. If things go well, he could potentially stick around for a while with Pettitte out for two months. Otherwise, he'll probably just be keeping a spot warm for David Phelps' return.
David Phelps - RHP: It's hard not to argue that Phelps deserved better than he got toward the end of his stay with the major league club. It's true that he was the long man out of the pen and pitchers were going deep into games, but I have to think that pitching SOME innings would be better than pitching none at all. When he was allowed to pitch, the shine had worn off a bit from the very beginning of the season when he was absolutely lights out, but he managed to make a positive impression that will likely have him back in the Bronx once he is stretched out.
Ronnier Mustelier - 2B/3B/OF: Mustelier began the year in AA Trenton before being promoted after 25 games hitting .353/.412/.598 with five home runs. Since joining the AAA team, he has continued to hit to the tune of .306/.355/.464 with six homers and 13 doubles in 50 games. He's started the majority of his AAA games in the outfield (in left, especially), but was primarily used at third base during his time in Trenton. Mustelier isn't the greatest fielder in the whole world, particularly in the infield, but he's only made two errors in the outfield with Empire State.
Russell Branyan - 1B/DH: We were all ready to see if Branyan could hit bombs in Yankee Stadium for our team instead of against them, but injuries kept him out of Spring Training and eliminated his chance to overthrow Raul Ibanez for the DH spot despite a dreadful showing in Tampa. Ibanez's pace has slowed considerably since his hot start and it's not unreasonable to think we could use an upgrade at the position at some point toward the end of this season. Branyan is currently hitting .284/.437/.642 with eight homers in 25 games for the Empire State Yankees. If you need a reminder of what he is capable of, embarrassing video for Javy Vazquez is here. Sorry, Javy.
Jack Cust - DH: There isn't a whole lot to say about Cust, other than that he hits a lot of dingers. He's hit 16 of them in AAA this season to lead their team. That isn't hard to do, considering the players on that roster, but the point still stands. Everything I already said about Ibanez looking every bit of 40 out there these days applies here as well. If the Yankees are looking to upgrade the DH position, there are two decent options already in the system that are just a phone call away.
Chris Dickerson - OF: Dickerson has only played in 21 games this season, but he's batting .304/.404/.468 with 11 doubles and five stolen bases for AAA. I'm still kind of stunned that the Brewers gave up a warm body for Sergio Mitre, but we could probably do a lot worse than Chris Dickerson. With the success he and Mustelier are having, it's a little perplexing that the Yankees decided to go with Ibanez and Wise in the outfield for so long while Brett Gardner has been out, but maybe they have their reasons. Plus, PSA always loves a good name pun.
The problem is generally whether or not there is a 40-man roster spot for these guys or not. Phelps and Warren obviously already have a place, but calling up any of the others at any point would require DFA'ing someone else. That shouldn't be a problem when names like Matt Antonelli and Danny Farquhar are on the list, but the Yankees have seemed hesitant to let even fringe players go in the past. The best case scenario would be that these guys stay hot enough to have a chance at making an impact during September and, hopefully, October. Our aging bench may really be needing the help by then.