Yankees Prospects: Constructing an early Short Season Staten Island roster

Jeff Zelevansky

Take a look at a projected pre-draft Staten Island roster and see who could end up in Short Season

If you've been following along with our daily Baby Bomber Recaps, you'll know that Minor League Baseball is in full swing, at least for the most part. While levels Single-A through Triple-A are now a few weeks into the season, we still have several months before Short Season and Rookie Ball start up again. Both will begin play in the weeks following the 2014 MLB Draft as a place for new professional players to get their feet wet.

The Yankees will generally assign high schoolers to one of the two GCL teams and college picks will go to Staten Island. But there are more roster spots available than there are newly drafted prospects, so those spots are filled by players who have yet to be assigned to a level and are currently in extended spring training. We obviously don't know who the Yankees will draft, but we do know who from within the system could be added to at least one of these rosters. To give you an idea of who might be hanging around in extended spring training and who we have yet to see this year, I tried to construct a very early Staten Island Yankees roster. There are a few here who will definitely be on this team, but a many others will get replaced by incoming draftees. All I'm doing is reminding you that these players exist.

Rotation

Ian Clarkin - LHP
2013 MLB Draft, 1st Round

The pitching crown jewel of the Yankees' 2013 draft, Clarkin was limited to only five innings last season, so he doesn't have much professional experience under his belt. There was talk about him starting out as high as Low-A this season, but it looks like they'll take a slightly less aggressive, though not totally unaggressive, approach as he'll be only 19 this season. Draft evaluators talk about how refined he is for a high school pitcher, so it's not completely unrealistic to see him start the season in Staten Island and end up in Charleston at some point, depending on how well he does in his first real taste of pro ball.

Ty Hensley - RHP
2012 MLB Draft, 1st Round

The steal of the 2012 draft hasn't proven to be much of a steal at all. Thanks to double hip surgery he had before the 2013 season, Hensley has yet to pitch more than 12 professional innings now going into his third year in the system. He's still recovering, but could be ready to return to the mound by the summer. He was once billed as a potential workhorse at the major league-level, but now it's not too crazy to question whether he has the body to make it that far. Hopefully this is just a spat of bad luck and he'll move on from here, but he'll be 21 in July and has missed precious development time.

Omar Luis - LHP
International Amateur Free Agent

The Yankees' best Cuban prospect, Luis ended up having somewhat of a disappointing season with a 5.68 ERA and 8.2 BB/9. It wasn't all bad because he put up a 12.2 K/9 as well. When he was initially scouted, the consensus was that Luis relies on a multitude of pitches, and rather than a real out-pitch, he relies on mixing his arsenal and changing locations. It's probable that his struggles were due to some leftover rust from when he didn't pitch for much of a year following his defection. While a repeat of Rookie Ball wouldn't be unwarranted, he's already 21 and the Yankees might want him to see better hitters quicker.

Cale Coshow - RHP
2013 MLB Draft, 13th Round

Described as having "a plus fastball that he can run up to 96 mph and also throws a curveball and a changeup, both of which could be average or better in the future. He does have weight problems [he's a big boy], however, and lacks command of his pitches," Coshow lived up to his scouting report in 2013. He had a decent start to his professional career with a good 3.76 ERA and 8.0 K/9, but a 4.9 BB/9 shows that he struggled with his command. The Yankees likely kept him back so he could focus on his conditioning and control issues. Once he has those under control, they'll let him roll on.

David Palladino - RHP
2013 MLB Draft, 5th Round

The Yankees actually managed to find a pitcher even larger than Dellin Betances when they drafted the enormous six-foot-nine right-hander from New Jersey. He has a fastball that sits in the low-90s, but can reach as high as 95 mph, and can throw a changeup, curveball, and slider. Initial reports suggest that his fastball is more or less straight, so he will have to use his incredible height to create a good downward angle on his pitches. He saw mixed results in his first professional season, accumulating a 4.67 ERA and 4.3 BB/9, but also showing the ability to strike batters out with an 8.2 K/9. A second go-around at Staten Island could ease him into a full season of professional baseball before he moves on to Low-A.

Bullpen

Tim Giel - LHP
Non-Drafted Free Agent

Giel was signed out of Columbia University to an unusual $100,000 signing bonus. We interviewed him back in July about signing with the Yankees. Giel can spot his fastball to either side of the plate and shows good breaking stuff. He pitched well in Rookie Ball, accumulating a 2.18 ERA to go along with a good 8.7 K-rate and impressive 1.7 walk-rate out of the bullpen. He got a small taste of Short Season-ball, but this year he'll get a full year. He's already 23, however, so hopefully he impresses early and can move up to A-ball before the end of the season.

Conner Kendrick - LHP
2013 MLB Draft, 9th Roundz
The 21-year-old lefty likely projects as a future reliever, but he was given ample opportunity to start in 2013, finishing with a 4.15 ERA with a underwhelming 5.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. He throws a 90 mph fastball with secondary offerings including a 77-80 mph curveball and a changeup, both of which project to be average MLB pitches. It has also been said that he possesses some deception in his delivery that should help him as a potential LOOGY. Given his projections, it's easy to push him into the bullpen where he will ultimately end up, but he'll still see some time in the rotation at some point.

Rony Bautista - LHP
International Amateur Free Agent
The gigantic 6-foot-7 Bautista signed with the Yankees out of the Dominican Republic before the 2010 season and all he's done since then is strike everyone out (10.1 K/9) and walk everyone (5.0 K/9). After two years as a starter, he spent 2012 in the bullpen where he saw his control issues improve. They moved him between the rotation and the bullpen in 2013 and he struggled with his control once again. He's essentially Dellin Betances, but hopefully the Yankees have learned their lesson and can handle Bautista better. He could get a shot in the Staten Island rotation and see how it goes, but at the age of 22, if he continues to struggle with his control, it might make sense to make him a reliever and let him move quickly through the system.

Dillon McNamara - RHP
2013 MLB Draft, 27th Round

McNamara performed well out of the bullpen in his first professional season; he had a 2.19 ERA and 7.5 K/9, but also had a rather high 4.1 BB/9. He probably could have moved up to Low-A Charleston, but the control issues are likely what has forced him to stay back. He was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome when he was in college, so the Yankees will keep him in the bullpen to keep him healthy.

Sam Agnew-Wieland - RHP
2013 MLB Draft, 24th Round

After seeing an uptick in velocity during his college career, Agnew-Wieland had a decent professional debut in Staten Island. He had a 3.72 ERA with a 9.8 K/9. His 4.0 BB/9 is probably what kept him from being promoted this year, but scouts believe he can be a sleeper if he keeps his velocity up.

Ethan Carnes - LHP
2013 MLB Draft, 21st Round

Described as a "touch-and-feel lefty who throws four pitches for strikes" by Baseball America, Carnes had a decent debut in a small sample size. In only nine games, he had a 3.86 ERA with a 3.9 BB/9 and an impressive 8.8 K/9 in Staten Island. His numbers alone should have earned him a promotion, but they probably want to see success over a longer period of time before they move him up.

Chaz Hebert - LHP
2011 MLB Draft, 27th Round

Taken out of high school three drafts ago, Hebert has only gotten into one Short Season game in his career. After a 4.50 ERA, a 2.8 BB/9 and 9.9 K/9 in two seasons of Rookie Ball, it might be time to give him a push up to the next level. The 21-year-old has seen time in the bullpen and rotation, but I plugged him in as a reliever because he's likely been passed over by quite a few prospects at this point.

Infield

Isaias Tejada - C | R
International Amateur Free Agent

Tejada was identified as a potential sleeper prospect just last March, but it's probably time to lay that idea to rest. He had a very impressive 2011 season where he hit .402/.563/.965 in his American debut, however, he's posted a .579 OPS over the last two seasons and seems destined for his third year at Staten Island at the age of 22.

Bubba Jones - 1B | L
2011 MLB Draft, 7th Round
Jones, now 21, spent two seasons with the Gulf coast Yankees before getting his first taste of Short Season action in 2013. He hit a respectable .284/.348/.393, but he lacks any real power after hitting his first two professional home runs just last year. Limited to first base, he can only go as far as his bat takes him, which isn't very far. He probably could have started the season in Low-A if not for the presence of Mike Ford, who is currently raking for the RiverDogs. Instead, Jones will spend his second season playing for Staten Island and will have to wait until a spot opens up above him.

Derek Toadvine - 2B | R/S
2013 MLB Draft, 22nd Round

The 22-year-old will have to repeat Short Season-ball after hitting .237/.329/.279 last year. Being drafted alongside Tyler Wade and John Murphy won't help him move any quicker. We also interviewed him back in November where he explained that he was learning to switch-hit, so he's working on that at the Yankees complex.

Thairo Estrada - SS | R
International Amateur Free Agent

Estrada is the one real infield prospect they have and he's probably No. 3 in the system at shortstop behind Abiatal Avelino and Tyler Wade. Signed out of Venezuela before last season, he was described by Baseball America as having "plus speed, fast hands and quick feet in the field. He's a line-drive hitter who has shown the ability to take the ball to the opposite field." Estrada went directly into Rookie Ball where he hit .274/.344/.429 as one of the youngest players in the GCL. Judging by the way they have handled their other young prospects (Luis Torrens, Gosuke Katoh, Tyler Wade, etc.), it's possible they will be aggressive with him if he continues to improve.

Kale Sumner - 3B/1B | R
2013 MLB Draft, 32nd Round

Sumner is a bit of a wild card; I'm not even sure where he's going to play. He was drafted as a catcher, but primarily played third base and some first base in 2013. It seemed he was no longer going to be considered a catcher this season until Low-A Charleston catcher Luis Torrens injured his shoulder and Sumner, who was still not assigned to an affiliate, was used to fill in. He has since played three games behind the plate, so maybe he could be a catcher still, at least part-time? I imagine he will move back to obscurity once Torrens comes back, but he could end up getting a lot of playing time for Staten Island at any of his three positions.

Outfield

Nathan Mikolas - LF | L
2012 MLB Draft, 3rd Round

After two seasons in Rookie Ball, it's time for Mikolas to move to Staten Island and show whether or not he has a bat. We interviewed the 20-year-old outfielder in August, who has had one underwhelming season in 2012 (.479 OPS) and one good season in 2013 (.765 OPS), but an increase in competition will show whether or not he should be considered any kind of prospect going forward.

Daniel Lopez - CF | R
International Amateur Free Agent

At one point Lopez was considered to be an under-the-radar prospect, but two seasons in Short Season will wipe that label right off you. He has decent on-base skills, but lacks any semblance of power. This would be his third year with Staten Island at the age of 22, so don't expect much from him going forward.

Austin Aune - RF | L
2012 MLB Draft, 2nd Round

It's probably about time Aune was allowed to either sink or swim. Drafted as a shortstop, he struggled mightily in the field, committing 15 errors in 31 games, while hitting a solid .273/.358/.410 in Rookie Ball. Last year, he was made a full-time outfielder, but his offense completely fell off a cliff with a .192/.230/.263 season. Now 20, it might be time to move him up and see if his bat can come back to life. I chose him as a starter, but the draft is going to include more than a few outfielders who might push him to a reserve role or even back to the GCL.

Bench

Kevin Cornelius - 3B | R
2013 MLB Draft, 31st Round

After a solid first pro season with a .269/.330/.376 batting line in Rookie Ball, the 21-year-old Cornelius should move up to Short Season. He primarily played third base last season, but could be capable of manning short and second as well. Hopefully Cornelius proves to be versatile enough, because utility infielders are still useful.

Radley Haddad - C | L
Non-Drafted Free Agent

We interviewed Haddad in August, just a few months after he signed with the Yankees. He didn't hit much in Rookie Ball last season, and given his age (23) and status as a non-drafted free agent, it's likely he never will. Haddad would really just be filler on this roster, so any college catcher would take his spot and push Tejada to the bench.

Christopher Breen 1B/OF | R
2012 MLB Draft, 12th Round

Drafted as a catcher and transitioned to a first baseman and outfielder, the 20-year-old will likely forgo a third straight season in the GCL for a chance in Short Season. Even if he's not pushed off the roster by some of the incoming draftees, he won't be more than a bench option.

Dustin Fowler - OF | L
2013 MLB Draft, 18th Round

At the age of 19 and coming off a debut where he hit .241/.274/.384, Fowler will likely end up repeating Rookie Ball instead of starting with Staten Island when new prospects need playing time. He's one of the younger players on this list, so going back to the GCL isn't the worst thing in the world.

Bryan Cuevas SS/2B
International Amateur Free Agent

His ability to play both second and short makes him a solid option to backup both Estrada and Toadvine (or any 2014 draftees). Depending on how the Yankees decide to draft, Cuevas could end up in the GCL again at the age of 20.

This roster might not sound very impressive, mostly because it's not. Clarkin, Hensley, Luis, and Estrada are really the extent of legitimate prospects on the team, though a few others show some hope. Keep in mind that a lot of these guys won't make it onto the team because new draft picks will be coming in and taking their spots. Right now I have 2013 draftees Drew Bridges, Kendall Coleman, Jordan Barnes, Alex Polanco, and Nestor Cortes returning to Rookie Ball this summer, with others likely to join them once the Short Season roster is actually finalized.

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