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Predicting The Triple-A Position players
13 years ago  ::  Jan 12, 2009 - 7:36PM #1
27TimeWorldChamp
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Predicting the Triple-A position players, though, is a different challenge. These are the positions I can predict with a strong level of confidence:
1B: Juan Miranda
CF: Austin Jackson
That's it, and aside from catcher, every other position requires guesswork not only about who will make the major league team, but also about which players the Yankees feel are ready to advance, which players the organization believes can help in New York if need be, and which players might be ready for Triple-A but better off getting regular at-bats back in Trenton.


With that in mind, here we go...



Catcher
Start with the easy one


As it stands, there are three choices for two spots. Newly signed Kevin Cash is more or less locked into one spot, the other comes down to P.J. Pilittere (right) and Frank Cervelli. A month ago, Mark Newman told me he expects Cervelli to open in Double-A because Cervelli's wrist injury kept him from getting many at-bats in Trenton last year. It might not last all year -- if things go well it almost certainly will not last all year -- but the decision would make a lot of sense and let the Yankees open the season by using an experienced catcher (Cash) and a deserving catcher (Pilittere) behind the plate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.


Prediction: Cash and Pilittere.
My gut says Cash would get the bulk of the starts like Chad Moeller did at the start of last season, but you never know. Pilittere does have a great reputation behind the plate. I've heard multiple pitchers rave about him, and you can't argue with the results during his time in Trenton.



Outfield
Getting a little harder


Obviously, Austin Jackson (right) is going to be in center field for the Triple-A Yankees. The only scenario in which he won't be the everyday center fielder is if Brett Gardner does not open the season in New York -- which isn't outside the realm of possibility -- in which case Jackson and Gardner would probably split time between left and center. Either way, Jackson will be on the Triple-A roster.


Beyond that, John Rodriguez seems to be the best bet. Veterans play an important role in Triple-A -- as leaders and as a reliable call-ups if the need presents itself -- and Rodriguez looks to be that guy in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He'll probably spend time in both corners and at designated hitter.


Filling the third outfield spot and the bench, though, is tough. It depends on what happens with Gardner in big league camp (which depends on whether the Yankees land a proven center fielder). It depends on what happens with Shelley Duncan. It depends on whether Colin Curtis is considered ready for Triple-A. It depends on how highly the Yankees think of Edwar Gonzalez after his breakout 2008 season. It also depends on whether the Yankees consider newly signed Justin Leone an outfielder or a utility man who can play the outfield.


That's five names, and I wouldn't consider it shocking to see any of them playing every day at PNC Field.


To make my prediction, I'll go ahead and put Gardner in New York and I'll say Leone makes the Triple-A roster as utility guy who primarily plays the outfield (he played at least 11 games at second, third, short and the outfield last year in Fresno). I'm also going to guess Duncan goes elsewhere, leaving the Yankees to either sign another free agent or let Gonzalez and Curtis duke it out in spring training for one last Triple-A job.


Prediction: Jackson, Rodriguez, Curtis and Leone.
I'm guessing Curtis would outplay Gonzalez in spring training, but I also wonder if the Yankees would rather leave Curtis in Double-A and add a minor league free agent. Seems possible if Duncan doesn't return and Gardner sticks in New York.



Infield
This is where it gets particularly difficult


With Mark Teixeira in New York, any sort of major league first base platoon no longer makes sense, which mean's Juan Miranda (right) is almost certainly lined up to start again in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It's not a bad situation, having Miranda as the emergency backup at first.


Beyond first base, though, the rest of the Triple-A infield is a mix-and-match puzzle with at least four solid candidates for each position:


Second base: Kevin Russo. Doug Bernier. Angel Berroa. Reegie Corona (if he doesn't stick with Seattle).
Third base: Eric Duncan. Chris Malec. Doug Bernier. Kevin Russo.
Shortstop: Ramiro Pena. Doug Bernier. Angel Berroa. Reegie Corona.


That's to say nothing of Cody Ransom, who may or may be out of options -- I really don't know -- and might agree to a minor league deal if he doesn't make the major league bench and gets cut from the 40-man. Even in that scenario, the Yankees organization wouldn't be the worst place for Ransom considering the team would have kept him on its 40-man all winter, given him a shot in spring training and wouldn't have a can't-miss infield prospect on the Triple-A roster.


Also, don't forget Justin Leone can play all over the infield and has seven seasons of 18 or more home runs, including six homers in a brief stint with Seattle in 2004.


It's not an especially massive group to chose from, problem is, the infield could play out so many different ways that it's tough to predict with any sort of confidence. Corona could stick as a Rule 5 pick with the Mariners, or he could be in Triple-A with the Yankees, or even in Double-A. Berroa or Ransom could win a big league job, or both could be in the big leagues, or the Yankees could sign someone else and dump both of them. Pena could be locked into the everyday job at short in Triple-A, or the Yankees could give his bat another few months to develop in Double-A, or he could transition into a utility role kind of like Alberto Gonzalez did last season. I could legitimately see Bernier playing every day at any one of the infield spots except first, or I could see him as an odd man out getting regular playing time without having a regular position.


With that in mind, I'll throw out this scenario as my guess...


Prediction: Miranda, Russo, Bernier, Malec, Berroa and Duncan.
I could see Ransom having a nice spring, playing a solid short while Jeter is in the World Baseball Classic and making the big league team. If Ransom proves he can handle short, Berroa could go to Triple-A, and if Berroa and Bernier are in Triple-A, the Yankees might feel OK about leaving Pena to take another few months to work on his hitting in Trenton. If Russo continues the hot-hitting he started in Arizona, then he could slide easily into the Triple-A second base job, and Malec's on-base percentage has certainly earned him a chance to prove himself as the Triple-A third baseman. Since the bat is the key for Duncan, he could get most of the starts at designated hitter, while still getting fairly regular playing time at first and third.


If this is the group, I doubt there would be a set-in-stone starting nine, but since we're speculating with no real chance of getting this right anyway...


Lineup
1. Jackson, CF
2. Malec, 3B
3. Miranda, 1B
4. Rodriguez, RF
5. Curtis, LF
6. Berroa, SS
7. Duncan, DH
8. Cash, C
9. Russo, 2B


B: Pilittere
B: Bernier
B: Leone

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