Best Player: It's no surprise that the winner here wears shin guards, a chest protector and mask. The catcher in question, though, isn't hitting phenom Jesus Montero—it's Double-A Trenton's Austin Romine. The 22-year-old missed much of June while recovering from a concussion but had batted a sturdy .291/.353/.408 with four homers in 48 games prior to the injury.
"He has hit very well and played well defensively," farm director Mark Newman said of the 2007 second-rounder. "He has become really strong defensively. He manages a game well. At the plate his walk-to-strikeout ratio (19-to-30) is up 30 percent from last year, and he is swinging at better pitches."
Biggest Leap Forward: Considering he went 0-6, 6.93 in six starts for high Class A Tampa last year, righthander Jairo Heredia didn't have to taste much success to be considered an improvement this year. However, the 21-year-old who signed in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic performed so well across the first three months that he was in line for a promotion to Trenton.
"During 2009 and 2010 he was injured and lost a lot of weight," Newman said of the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Heredia. "This year he is healthy and pitching well." Back with Tampa this season, Heredia went 8-2, 3.29 with 69 strikeouts in 68 innings. That's because of added velocity—up to 91-92 mph—and the ability to throw strikes. "He always had quality secondary pitches," Newman said. "This year his fastball velocity is up and the fastball command is good."
Biggest Disappointment: The same control woes that plagued righthander Andrew Brackman in 2009 and across the first half of last season re-surfaced this season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, to the point where the 2007 first-round pick's career was in jeopardy. Brackman bounced back in the second half of 2010, posting a 2.10 ERA with 52 strikeouts and 23 walks in 60 innings, so the Yankees picked up a $1 million option for 2011.
Coming out of spring training, New York felt confident that Brackman could help in the big leagues at some point this year. But a severe lack of control (40 walks and 52 hits allowed in 52 innings, 6.75 ERA) prompted New York to pull him from the Triple-A rotation on June 7. "A year ago he was throwing as well as anybody in our system," Newman said. "We need to see if he can get through it. He is a tough guy who works."
• Trenton righthander Dellin Betances proved to be nearly unhittable in the season's first half by leading the minors in opponent average. He allowed 42 hits in 237 at-bats (.177), including just 10 extra-base hits in 13 starts.
• The Yankees agreed to terms with their top draftee, No. 51 overall pick Dante Bichette Jr., for an above-slot $750,000 bonus.