As expected, the Yankees sent many key players from last year’s Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and short-season New York-Penn League championship teams to low Class A Charleston, which might have the most prospect-laden roster in the minors. Catcher Gary Sanchez repeats the level where he slugged .485 as an 18-year-old but struggled defensively. He’s joined in the infield with New York’s last two top draft picks, third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. (2011) and shortstop Cito Culver (2010), plus 2010 second-rounder Angelo Gumbs at second. The organization’s top position player prospect, Mason Williams, patrols center field with Tyler Austin, who also will play some first base, shifted to right field. The outfield also includes Ben Gamel (younger brother of Milwaukee’s Mat Gamel) and Kelvin de Leon, still raw at 21. Righthander Jose Campos, acquired from the Mariners with Michael Pineda in the trade that sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to Seattle, headlines the rotation along with righty Bryan Mitchell.
Leap Of Faith
Righthander Mark Montgomery, an 11th-round pick out of Longwood last year, is headed to Double-A Trenton. His plus slider helped him jump on the fast track. Also, the Yankees stuck an all-prospect rotation on what is essentially a travel team. The Triple-A Empire State Yankees will be based out of Rochester but will play home games all over New York State with a rotation led by lefthander Manny Banuelos and including righthanders Dellin Betances and Adam Warren. Catcher Austin Romine will handle the staff, whose biggest obstacle likely will be fatigue.
Where Is That Guy?
Outfielder Ravel Santana is in extended spring training as he takes a slow road back from his broken ankle. Several younger prospects are with him, from 2011 draftees such as Jake Cave and Greg Bird to international signees Claudio Custodio and Isaias Tejada. Mexican League veteran Jorge Vazquez, who hit 32 home runs for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was released, according to the Scranton (Pa.) Times-Tribune.
Time Is Running Out
Two years ago, Brandon Laird was the Double-A Eastern League’s MVP and earning comparisons to second-division everyday third basemen such as Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Yankees, who could use some righthanded power, gave him some time in left field last year but found he fits better as a corner infielder than as a utility player. He’s back in Triple-A and will have to hit his way onto a big league roster.
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