Top Amateur Acquisitions Exceed Yankees' Expectations





NEW YORK—The Yankees dished out a combined $5.2 million last summer to sign Dominican catcher Gary Sanchez and first-round Texas prep outfielder Slade Heathcott. So far, it's been money well spent.

Sanchez has the tools to be the best of a strong crop of backstops in the organization, while Heathcott's combination of athleticism and competitiveness have opened eyes belonging to other organizations.

"Oh yeah," said general manager Brian Cashman when asked if the youngsters had been targeted by other teams in trade talks before the deadline.

The Yankees publicly-stated plan called for Heathcott, 19, to begin play with low Class A Charleston in early June to prepare him for a summer with short-season Staten Island.

"We wanted to get him away from the chain-link fence places and play in ballparks," farm director Mark Newman said.

Heathcott quickly revised the Yankees' plans by hitting .274/.366/.343 in 175 at-bats for the RiverDogs. An elite 6-foor-1, 190-pound athlete, he projects as a marquee defensive center fielder, and he already had stolen 10 bases in 15 attempts.

"To come out of high school and hit .280 in the Sally League, that's pretty good," Cashman said.

As for Sanchez, who already checks in at 6-fot-2, 195 pounds, the only thing that could slow him was a right wrist injury in mid-July.

"He works his tail off and has huge tools offensively and defensively," Cashman said. "You always want tools to translate to talent, but he is already producing."

Through 74 at-bats in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, Sanchez batted .378/.455/.622 with four homers, six doubles and 21 RBIs.

The 17-year-old Sanchez slots in behind a trio of catching prospects already in the system: Jesus Montero (Triple-A), Austin Romine (Double-A) and J.R. Murphy (low Class A).

But with the way he played at the outset of his career, Sanchez could close the gap quickly.

YANKEE DOODLES

• A poor spring relegated righthander Jonathan Albaledejo to Triple-A, but he earned a brief callup to the big leagues in late July after saving 35-of-36 games and boasting a 0.88 ERA and 66-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

• Veteran Chad Tracy hit the cover off the ball for three weeks with Scranton—.324/.356/.662 with six homers—but elected to opt out of his contract after the Yankees acquired veteran bats Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns at the trade deadline. Tracy's departure, in turn, cleared the way for Brandon Laird's promotion to Triple-A.