When you say, "bring up the kids," who exactly are you talking about? There’s that Austin Romine guy, Eduardo Nunez and I guess Francisco Cervelli, just because I feel bad for him. But Romine hasn’t hit much since his .286/.351/.378 line in 85 games at AA in 2011, hasn’t played much in AAA (a grand total of 21 games and 86 plate appearances), and hasn’t been healthy (the last time he played in over 100 games was 2010). We all know about the ongoing Eduardo Nunez saga and how Cervelli was shipped out to Scranton in favor of Chris Stewart, of all people. Who among the rest of the flock can actually make an impact on the 2013 roster, and who among those could actually break camp with the team in order to make the "let the kids play" mantra that has been chanted around here actually make sense?
Of the Yankees Top 20 prospects listed on MLB.com only four prospects are projected to be ready for the major leagues in 2013: Zoilo Almonte (AAA), Adam Warren (AAA), Mark Montgomery (AA), and Jose Pirela (AA). There is also Manny Banuelos, but he’s in outer space this year and Dellin Betances, but he’s dead to me. The Yankee rotation seems to be more than set, so lets ignore Adam Warren. Don’t forget about Mark Montgomery though, because he’s awesome and could actually make the team.
Almonte finished his first full year at AA in 2012 and is now on the 40 man roster for his impressive performance. In 450 plate appearances he batted .278/.322/.488 with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases, which was good for a 120 wRC+ for the year. His ability to play the outfield would make him a fourth outfield candidate if he had more experience in AAA and had a better walk/strikeout rate. His 5.6% walk rate marked his lowest rate since his first stint in rookie ball in 2007. On top of that he had a 22.7% strikeout rate, which has actually been an improvement from his past seasons. MLB.com claims Jose Pirela could make it to the big leagues in 2013. Pirela greatly improved in 2012, his second year in Trenton, batting .293/.356/.448 for a 123 wRC+ year. Problem: he plays second base and shortstop. There’s a chance he could make the team as a utilityman, but he doesn’t look to get much playing time unless he’s used specifically as Jeter’s backup.
We can look to the big names that everyone can kind of rattle off and just think that because they know who they are they’re ready for the majors. Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott are still only in Charleston, so they probably still have another year+ before they can become realistic non-cup of coffee callups. Developing players can take time and patience. If a player hasn’t fully developed, throwing them to the MLB wolves is not going to help them at all. Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams show promise, but they’re only 20 and 21 years old and are not named Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Heathcott's impressive resume of injuries has made him a 22 year old who has yet to complete a full season of baseball at any level and is still only in High A. You will not see any of these players in 2013.
The sub-Top 20 is where the good stuff is hanging out. By ‘good stuff,’ I mean ‘enough stuff.’ Ronnier Mustelier (AAA), Melky Mesa (AAA), David Adams (AA), and Corban Joseph (AAA) all could fill in on the big league team at some point in this season. I say David Adams because he’s 25 and he suddenly plays third base, so. Not really, though.
Ronnier Mustelier is the obvious and somewhat favorite choice to have on the team when Spring Training breaks. Mustelier is basically a more realistic Jorge Vazquez. He hit for higher average, gets on base more and also doesn’t strikeout all the time. Only some of the time. His .303/.359/.455 batting line in 2012 gave him a 128 wRC+ in his first year in Scranton, which is not that much off from El Chato’s 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons. Mustelier has hit at every level, but that could be a product of the fact that he’s not really a kid, though still younger than Vazquez. At 28 he’s not much of a prospect and it seems that the Yankees only employee old players that have veteran presence. At this point he probably can’t buy enough presence or presents to make his way onto the team.
Melky Mesa could be interesting, if he actually showed promise of being a good baseball player. He stole a lot of bases at one point (31 in 2010), but has since decided to stop doing that. He also strikes out all the time, with a strikeout rate never below 20%, ever. He might hit around 10-15 home runs, if he’s lucky, so he doesn’t look to be bringing that much power to the majors. Before being called up last year, so he could run around the bases, he had a .230/.271/.524 batting line with a 112 wRC+, which basically turns him into 2012 Domonic Brown in half the games. The Phillies don’t want Dom Brown, so what does that say about Melquisedec Mesa?
Good old David Adams played 86 games at AA this year and it was the most he ever played in a single season by a lot. The once promising, now eternally broken prospect has finally put together a good season. His .306/.385/.450 triple slash gave him a 133 wRC+ so he can definitely still play, however he’s 25 now and has been nothing but blocked at every turn. As a second baseman he was always going to be blocked by Cano, then he got hurt and Corban Joseph passed him. To allow him to progress to AAA (where he’ll certainly be starting this year) he was moved to third base, where he is still obviously blocked by Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis and probably Jayson Nix as well. Lets see how he does in his new position before he becomes a possibility and lets see if he can actually stay on the field.
Speaking of Corban Joseph, this guy might have figured out how to hit. He had a .266/.366/.474 line with a 134 wRC+ in 84 games at AAA this year, after already putting up a 139 wRC+ in AA. He might have discovered his power stroke, hitting 13 home runs in Scranton alone after going through his entire career with only 21 total. I hear he’s kind of a butcher in the field, but hopefully he can do what Eduardo Nunez has been unable to do. He doesn’t know any other positon so he’s going to have to move somewhere if he wants to see the light of day. Maybe he should move to third base instead, if only to just piss of David Adams.
Players make the jump from AA to the majors all the time, but when they do that they’re usually really freaking good. No one would consider any of these players to be that. I think you could really only consider Mark Montgomery that good. Everyone else will definitely be taking the traditional path and I highly doubt any of these, barring catastrophic injury and the kidnapping of someone like Jayson Nix, will be making the team any time soon. There are a few that could, but this is the Yankees and 'could' usually isn't good enough. There are no kids to bring up, let them play with the babysitters a little longer and earn their spot, if they can. It’s absolutely unexciting, but it’s realistic.