Yankees' Montero, Betances Succeed With Loud Tools

Best Player: Eduardo Nunez made it to the big leagues thanks to a productive bat and an opening created by an injury to Alex Rodriguez. Yet General manager Brian Cashman didn't hesitate when asked whose name belonged in this category: Jesus Montero. "He hit 20 homers in the International League at 20 years old."

Montero arrived in spring training carrying extra weight but shed it. Though he started slowly with Tripe-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the catcher earned passage on the IL all-star team.

"I have been told by players that when the ball goes off his bat to right field it looks like it was hit by a lefthanded hitter," Cashman said of 6-foot-4, 225-pound Montero, who batted .289/.353/.517 with 21 homers in 453 at-bats.

While Montero's best tool is his bat, he improved his play behind the plate this season—even if it's not reflected in his 23 percent success rate at catching basestealers.

Best Pitcher: Ivan Nova had the best year in the system, but according to Cashman, 6-foot-4 righthander Dellin Betances is the organization's best pitching prospect. "He might be our best pitching prospect ever," the GM said.

Betances had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and made just 11 starts. But the '06 eighth-round pick made up for lost time this season, earning his first promotion to Double-A Trenton, where he struck out 20 and walked three over 14 innings.

The 22-year-old Betances spent most of the year befuddling high Class A Florida State League hitters for Tampa. In 14 starts, he went 8-1, 1.77 with 88 strikeouts and 19 walks in 71 innings. Opposing batters hit just .169 against him.

Keep An Eye On: Third baseman Brandon Laird won Double-A Eastern League MVP honors for Trenton, batting .291/.355/.523 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs in 409 at-bats.

A 27th-round pick in 2007 from Cypress (Calif.) JC, Laird has used his bat to get noticed. "He can flat-out hit," Cashman said of the 23-year-old righthanded hitter.

A natural third baseman, Laird also dabbled at first base and right field this season, which he finished with a 31-game trial at Scranton. He batted .246/.268/.344 with two homers in 122 Triple-A at-bats.


• Scranton righthander Jonathan Albaladejo wrapped up one of the top relief seasons in recent IL history, setting a new league saves record with 43 and leading all relievers in opponent average (.170) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.7).

• The Yankees claimed 24-year-old lefty Steve Garrison, a New Jersey native, on waivers from the Padres, going back to the same organization that yielded Chad Huffman on an earlier claim. The link between the two organizations: Special assignment scout Kevin Towers served as San Diego GM from 1995 through '09.