Spring officially starts in a week with the first pitch of the Yankees exhibition schedule in the Grapefruit League in Florida. Here's a brief look at some of the new position players from the minor leagues and free agent signings we may see in some of the games.
Brett Gardner: Outfielder - Gardner is a line drive hitter with great speed - the fastest prospect in the Yankees system. He is also a very good bunter. He stole 39 bases in ‘07 , while hitting .300 at AA Trenton before being promoted midseason to SWB where he hit .260. Defensively he uses his speed very well, and can cover a lot of ground in center. Gardner was very good in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .343. He'll most likely be back at SWB for the start of the season and needs to bring his average up.
Juan Miranda: 1st base - Miranda was signed as a FA from Cuba. He should be sharing 1st/DH duties at SWB with Eric Duncan at SWB to start the season. He hit righties very well but struggled against lefties (.223 in 112 AB in '07) and also needs to work on his defense. He hit .265 with .832 OPS at AA Trenton. He was impressive at the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .295 with 7 HR, and 17 RBI, in 22 games. He will be one of many fighting for the first base spot, but will most likely start the year in SWB.
Alberto Gonzalez: Shortstop - The slick fielder was a Sept call up to NY. He does needs to work on his offense, though. He hit .266 between AAA and AA. He did have a very good winter league where he hit .341.
Justin Christian: Outfielder - Plays good defense with very good speed and can steal bases. In an oddity, he only hit .235 at AA, but hit .325 in 40 games after being promoted to AAA. Overall .271 in 105 games with 35 stolen bases.
Jose Tabata: Outfielder - Tabata is highly rated prospect with an abundance of talent. The corner outfielder is recovering from wrist surgery and did not play winter ball. Last year he hit .307 at A-Tampa and should start the year at AA Trenton.
Austin Jackson: Outfielder - Another one of the Yankees top prospects, very talented and athletic. He had a breakout 2nd half of the year in ‘07 after being promoted to A Tampa hitting .345 there. Defensively he has above average range, and a plus arm. He was very good winter league in Hawaii, so good that he was rated the 2nd best prospect. He should start the year at AA Trenton next to Tabata in the outfield.
Jesus Montero: Cather - Montero is an 18 year old power hitting catcher, who can go to all fields, and has tremendous bat-speed. He also has a very good eye for someone his age. He should start the year at Charleston. He had a great winter league hitting .358. He's already 6-4, about 230 and could eventually be switched to 1st base.
Francisco Cervelli: Catcher - Closest to the majors out of all the Yankees catching prospects, but also has the lowest ceiling. He has great defensive skills who knows how to handle pitchers. He hit .279 at A-Tampa in ‘07 and will start the year at AA Trenton.
Marcos Vechionacci: - 3rd baseman. Vechionacci hit .267 at A Tampa in 103 games. He should start the year at AA Trenton.
Colin Curtis: Outfielder - He was a teammate of Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia at Arizona State. Curtis, who the Yankees rate as a plus hitter, hit for a combined .270 with 19 homers between Tampa and Trenton in ‘07 . He's an average defensive outfielder, but has well-rounded tools.
Eric Duncan - 1st base/DH and former 1st round draft pick. Duncan hasn't hit over .250 in any of the last 3 years and wasn't protected from the Dec. Rule 5 Draft. He just turned 23 and needs a good year at the plate at AAA SWB. In 2007 in 113 games he hit .241, 712 OPS, 11 homers and 61 RBI.
Nick Green: Utility infielder - Signed 30 day minor league deal will try for utility role in NY. Played with the Yanks in 06 and hit .240 with 2 homers. In 07 hit .245 at AAA Indianapolis and .337 at AAA Portland. He’s a career .240 major league hitter.
Morgan Ensberg - 3rd baseman. Ensberg is trying to recover from a bad shoulder that hampered him in ‘07. He's played 1 game in his career at 1st. Hit .232 with 8 homers in ‘07 for the Astros. But in ’05 he had a career high of 36 homers with Houston. He’s a career .265 in the majors.
Jason Lane: Outfielder -He hit .178 in ‘07 with 8 homers for Houston. Had career high 26 homers with Astros in ’05, and is a career .241 in the majors.
Greg Porter: Outfielder - Porter hit .345 with 7 homers at AAA, and .297 at AA in ‘07.
Bernie Castro: Infielder -Hit .280 in 118 games at AAA in ’07, and a career .253 major league hitter.
Cody Ransom: Infielder - Hit .260 with 28 homers at AAA in ‘07. In 19 games with the Astros he nit .229.
-The SWB team lost a lot of minor leaguers to free agency and a lot were signed as possible replacements with spring training invitations to try to win a job with the big club.
-Other minor league catchers in camp: 2007 draft picks, Austin Romine and Chase Weems, as well as Kyle Anson, Jason Brown and P. J. Pilittere.
-Former Yankees lefty reliever, Ron Villone signed a minor league deal with the Cards. Bubba Crosby signed a minor league deal with the Mariners.
- Here's an article about one of Big Guy's favorites: Mark Melancon
- Another Melancon article from today's Post by Joel Sherman
- And here's an article on Eric Duncan
(as always I'd like to thank Big Guy for his great contributions)