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Background: Jeter busted out this year, earning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award. Strengths: Besides plus tools, Jeter understands the strike zone, runs the bases intelligently and has leadership skills. He has outstanding range and agile feet. Weaknesses: Jeter decreased his errors from 56 to 25 this year, but then made 11 in 16 AFL games before leaving with a tired shoulder, which isn't considered serious. He makes lazy throws on easy plays, something the Yankees believe he will grow out of with experience. The Future: Jeter might emerge as early as April, because Mike Gallego and possibly Randy Velarde will have left as free agents. But he might not be able to hold the job this early on a contender, much as the Blue Jays' Alex Gonzalez couldn't in 1994.
Background: A draft-and-follow signed in 1991 after one season at San Jacinto (Texas) North JC, Pettitte has become a hot commodity regularly mentioned by other teams wanting to trade with the Yankees. Strengths: Pettitte boasts an above-average lefty repertoire: a fastball that he can tail both in and out, a down-breaking curveball and a great pickoff move. He also improved on his aggressiveness in tight situations this year. Weaknesses: Pettitte needs to find tune his command of his breaking pitch and changeup, something he improved in instructional league. The Future: Depending on Jimmy Key's comeback from surgery, Pettitte has a chance to make the big league rotation next spring. Though the Yankees would rather avoid it, he might bounce between being a major league swingman and a Triple-A starter much as Sterling Hitchcock did in 1994.
Background: He's Ruben Rivera's older cousin and recommended Ruben to the Yankees. Mariano has been brought along slowly after 1992 shoulder surgery. Strengths: Tall and lanky, Rivera throws a consistent 90-92 mph fastball with movement, a cut fastball that acts like a slider and an average changeup and curveball. His control is the system's best. He consistently throws strikes at the knees and holds runners well. Weaknesses: Stamina is a concern, as is a curveball that needs more break. At this stage of his development, his fastball is not yet a strikeout pitch. He needs better command moving pitches inside and out. Future: Rivera will return to Triple-A next spring. He could break through in middle relief late in the season and contend for a starting spot in 1996.