Here are a few things on my mind this week. I’m getting pumped for the start of the season, and can’t wait to begin using my subscription to MILB.tv!
- The idea of replacing Mariano Rivera makes me sick to my stomach, but the reality is, that day is coming and a suitable successor needs to be found. The most likely man for the job at this point would be dominant set-up man David Robertson, with the fall back option being Joba Chamberlain. The other name that could emerge down the line is that of prospect Mark Montgomery, who blew hitters away in his debut last season in the lower minors. Montgomery pitches in the low 90s and can get up to 95 MPH when he needs a little extra. His out pitch is a plus slider, which baffled Low-A hitters, leading him to a 15.16 K/9. The slider is already major league caliber, and all he really needs now is experience getting more advanced hitters out. He should move quickly this season, and may be in line for a spot in the bullpen as early as the beginning of 2013.
- There are a lot of people skeptical of catcher Austin Romine, and whether or not he can be the long term solution behind the plate for the Yankees. The first issue Romine has is his ability to throw runners out consistently, despite having plus arm strength and good athleticism behind the plate. Romine only caught 23 percent of base stealers last year, which is well below average. The hope in this case is that with time, Romine will be able to refine his craft and raise his success rate. There are plenty of catchers who have bloomed late, so this could just be defensive growing pains for Romine. His bat is also in question, especially after his tepid production at the dish at Double-A (.092 ISO, .729 OPS) in ’11. He’s capable of a .270-.280 average and double digit homers in the majors if things come together, and even if he falls short of that, could still be a useful player. Triple-A will be a big test for him this year, and should be a good indicator of where he’s at in his development. Which side of the fence to you stand on with Romine?
- Baseball America recently posted its list of the Top 30 bonuses ever given out to international free agents, and two Yankee signees made the list. Gary Sanchez tied for 5th ($3 million in ’09) and Wily Mo Pena was 13th ($2.44 million in ’99). This year’s biggest bonus given out by the Yankees was to third baseman Miguel Andujar, for $750,000, placing him in a tie for 21st among 2011 signees. Andujar earns praise for his quick hands and bat speed, and projects to hit for both average and power. He also shows good defensive instincts and tools at the hot corner, and the belief is he can stay there long term. He’s a long way off though, and is a lottery ticket at this point. His bonus may seem modest compared to some previous Yankee signings, but keep in mind Robinson Cano only signed for $100,000 in 2001, and Manny Banuelos was one of four players signed out of the Mexican League for $450,000 (for the entire group). What matters here is that bonuses mean nothing when it comes to player development, and Andujar is no exception. I’m looking forward to seeing how the kid’s tools develop with the Yankees, and hope he follows the path of those who were successful before him.