Chad Jennings at LoHud spoke to the Yankees' vice president of player operations, Mark Newman, to try and sort out where a few prospects of interest could be expected to start the 2014 season, as well as just checking in on the status of players that had been injured or participating in various winter leagues.
Perhaps the biggest news out of the conversation between Jennings and Newman was the idea that two of the Yankees' first round picks from last season could begin the year in High-A Tampa. Eric Jagielo got some time in with the Staten Island Yankees last season after a hamstring injury delayed his start, hitting .266/.376/.451 in 51 games at the Short Season level. Being regarded as a polished bat coming out of Notre Dame at the time of the draft likely helps the decision to move him through the system quickly in hopes of him being able to take over at third base in the near future.
Aaron Judge was unable to play a single professional game for the Yankees after being drafted last year but his college status could allow the Yankees to be similarly aggressive with him the way they hope to be with Jagielo. It's possible that one or both of them will ultimately end up in Low-A Charleston to begin the season instead, and how they perform in spring training may end up being the deciding factor. Either way, it's nice to see that the Yankees are willing to move them along through the system quickly. The Yankees' third and final first round pick Ian Clarkin's assignment will depend on how spring training goes.
Other players' destinations of note from Newman include that second-rounder Gosuke Katoh will likely start 2014 at Staten Island instead of Charleston. Taking Katoh in the second round drew questions on draft day but his impressive start to his professional career, hitting .310/.402/.522 in Rookie Ball last season, makes it seem like the Yankees may have actually made a nice selection. Newman said that Slade Heathcott could begin the year at Double-A or Triple-A after playing in a career-high games in 2013. Heathcott was also just married, according to Newman, so congratulations are in order for him.
Ty Hensley, Jose Campos, Michael Pineda, and Manny Banuelos are all healthy and ready to pitch, according to Newman. Each of them has missed significant time due to injuries of varying severity with Ty Hensley having barely pitched for the Yankees since he was drafted two years ago. Pineda will almost certainly be vying for a spot on the Major League roster and Banuelos is likely destined for a refresher course at Triple-A for the beginning of 2014.
Jose Pirela and Zoilo Almonte drew praise for their accomplishments in the Venezuelan and Dominican Winter Leagues, respectively. Pirela put up a .322/.415/.514 slash line in Venezuela this offseason, putting him in line for a promotion with his versatility likely working in his favor. If he can add another strong season or half-season to his recent accomplishments it's possible that he'll be knocking on the door of the Majors before long. Mason Williams didn't get such good reviews from Newman, who said the outfield prospect's numbers were just "so-so". Newman did, however, think that Williams swung the bat well. Williams needs a bounce back season in 2014 to regain his stock.
The Yankees have a few prospects who dabbled in playing third base at various points but none of them are expected to make the switch there for good. Tyler Austin, J.R. Murphy, and Peter O'Brien have worked out at third in the past, but Newman maintains that Austin is an outfielder and Murphy and O'Brien are catchers. O'Brien was moved to third in his time with High-A Tampa last year to accommodate Gary Sanchez, but it sounds like he should be moving back there in the coming season. Adonis Garcia, on the other hand, is one prospect who has played primarily as an outfielder that could be used at third base or elsewhere on the infield. Newman said that Garcia was signed as a guy who could play second or third and all three outfield positions, two of those being positions the Yankees could desperately use some help at immediately.
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