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Yankees NRI Profiles Part II

Twenty down, nine to go. Some good candidates this time around, as well as a couple of head-scratchers:

Doug Bernier is a 31-year-old infielde4r who has career rates of .245/.347/.337 at Triple-A. A former non-drafted free agent signed by the Rockies in 2002, they gave him a major league cameo in 2008 in what can only be described as an act of generosity. Bernier can’t help the Yankees, but no one can ever take that moment with the Rockies away from him, and someday he’ll be able to tell his grandchildren he played in the major leagues.

Having missed all of 2011 recovering from a shoulder separation, Colin Curtis is just trying to show he has something left. At 27, there isn’t much hope of him having much of a career given that he’s a corner outfielder who can’t hit. Teams need that like they need surrealists on the pitching staff—you need a good fastball to get a key strikeouts, and the guy is throwing fish and snow globes.

Cole Garner is another former Rockies property in camp. Twenty-seven years old, he’s no spring chicken, but he had a slow trip through the minors and didn’t reach Triple-A until he was 25. He’s a career .286/.340/.483 hitter in the minors. He doesn’t have a lot of power and in the majors he will probably take a walk once every six years. Defensively, the length, width, and breadth of him is a left fielder. He’d be badly exposed as a regular, but as a reserve perhaps he could punch out some singles and doubles, tell a few good jokes…

Manny Delcarmen is an excellent example of the unreliability of relievers. A formerly hard-throwing right-hander, he pitched well in 2007 and 2008, although he benefitted from good luck on balls in play in those years. After that, his control vanished and his velocity dropped. He walked 66 in 112 innings over the next two seasons, during which time he was traded to the Rockies for pitcher Chris Balcom-Miller, a functional prospect He spent last season pitching in the Mariners and Rangers systems and was released by both, the second time in July. There is no reason to think he has much left to offer, but he could always get hot and win the Luis Ayala Memorial Game-Out-Of-Reach Role for a few weeks.

Like Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima is a former member of the Red Sox tribe. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Pawtucket and pitched really well, but of late major league hitters haven’t been fooled by his slider/changeup offerings and deceptive delivery. In his American career, the Kyoto native has held fellow left-handers to .218/.277/.323 averages, and if he could do that now you would take him over (or in addition to) Boone Logan in a second. The last couple of years strongly suggest that his lefty-on-lefty dominance is a thing of the past, but pitchers are variable enough that he could find another wrinkle.

I figure I don’t have to say much about Manny Banuelos, who might be the team’s top prospect now that Jesus Montero has left town. He’ll be along presently, when he shows consistent command and one of the 7.63 pitchers in front of him gets hurt. Right-handed Daniel Burawa reminds me of a New Jersey chain of convenience stores. A 12th-round selection of the Yankees in 2010 who was signed to an over-slot bonus, the New York native has yet to pitch above High-A. He’s your standard reliever with good stuff and very good command thus far who hasn’t posted exceptional strikeout rates and would seem to have no closer potential. Though Burawa is inexperienced, relievers can move quickly so the Yankees can chance a look and file it away for future reference.

Juan Cedeno is a potential left-handed spot reliever like Raul Valdes was a potential left-handed spot reliever or Amauri Sanit was a potential mythological creature whom no one would ever believed had pitched in the majors. Being a left-handed pitcher means getting a million chances in baseball, but Cedeno seems like a reach regardless of which of his paws is dominant. He pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, and Dodgers from 2001 through 2008 and never made it out of Double-A, being relentlessly thrashed all that time. His ERA in 111 games at that level was 5.80, with 5.5 walks and 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He hasn’t pitched for an affiliated minor league team since then, but he did post a 6.49 ERA for the independent Rio Grande Valley Whitewings last summer. If Valdes and Sanit made it up, perhaps he will as well, but as with those two gentlemen it seems unlikely he will have earned the shot.

A 27-year-old right-handed pitcher who was once considered a top prospect, Adam Miller was a first-round draft pick (supplemental phase) of the Indians in the 2003 draft (he was part of the compensation for the loss of Jim Thome). Supplemental picks after him: Matt Murton, Omar Quintanilla, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adam Jones. He has, or had, great stuff, but injuries have all but halted his development, including multiple surgeries on his right middle finger. That last caused him to miss all of 2009 and 2010. Though groomed as a starter, in which role he performed excellently in 2004 and 2006, he is much more likely to serve as a reliever now. It is worth noting that there is no evidence that pitching in relief makes a pitcher safer from injury, and in fact there is much evidence to the contrary. If the old lightning is still in the arm, he’s definitely worth a try.

Graham Stoneburner, right-hander, is an actual Yankees prospect with a sinking fastball. He had a rough year due to neck and shoulder injuries. Given a lack of secondary pitches, he’s probably on the slow train to the bullpen.