2010 Yankee Spring Training: Five Most Impressive Baby Bombers

The New York Yankees are usually one of the teams where most (if not all) the 25 man roster spots are already accounted.

But, as is the case with a team based in New York, the hype does follow the younger players. Many times this hype is unwarranted.

In the case of these young Yankee players, it might be justified.

This list is not predicated on which Yankee farmhand is the best prospect or will make the most impact on the major leagues.

Jesus Montero is the best prospect and will make the most impact.

But he is NOT on this list. He just has not played enough so far this spring, plus everybody knows of his vast hitting talents.

This list represents the players who may or may not be impact guys down the road, but who General Manager Brian Cashman and field manager Joe Girardi feel can help the 2010 team and could get a taste of the Bronx sometime this season:

1) Mark Melancon

As I have written before, Melancon deserves a spot in the 2010 bullpen.

However, the signing of Chan Ho Park likely eliminates the youngster’s spot to begin the season. Melancon has not let the player numbers game affect his spring pitching numbers. He has only pitched 3.2 innings this spring, but has allowed no runs on three hits while striking out five.

In his first appearance he stranded the Phillies’ Jayson Werth with a man in scoring position, then two days later cleaned up Jonathan Albaladejo’s fifth inning mess against Toronto.

Most importantly, Melancon’s impeccable control is back as he has yet to walk a batter.

While I feel he should make the squad out of the spring, Melancon will be the first call up when the pen needs a new arm.

2) Colin Curtis

While he will not be an impact type player, with timely hitting and solid defense, Curtis has shown this spring why the Yankees have kept him in the system for four years.

 Thus far this spring, Curtis has been 4 for 8 at the plate with a double and walk off grand slam in the first spring game.

Over four minor league seasons, Curtis has put up a line of .264/.334/.375/.709 OPS with only 27 home runs and 182 RBI’s; they are solid numbers but not great. 

With a dearth of upper level talent in the Yankee minor league system, Curtis could get a major league opportunity in 2010.

Let’s hope he gets that chance as Curtis is one of my favorite Yankee minor league players.

3) Zach McAllister

I remember watching Zach Attack in his first pro season at Staten Island. He already had good pop on his fastball, but the sinker was already a force.

Ironically, that first year in split season baseball was his worst as a pro going 4-6, with a 5.17 ERA and 1.514 WHIP. With a completely inadequate defense, all those ground balls found holes and he began to nibble, walking 3.5 batters per 9 IP.

As he moved up the ladder against better hitters, McAllister has been 26-16 with a 2.26 ERA and 1.042 WHIP at three levels, walking only 1.5 batters per 9 IP.

He moved up last season to pitch in the Triple A playoffs and got the win for Scranton, and has been unfazed in major league camp, hurling three no hit innings while allowing a single walk.

With the expectation of Sergie Mitre being traded and Chad Gaudin thus far not impressing, with a good showing early in the AAA season, McAllister could get the first call to the Bronx.

4) Kevin Russo

Kevin Russo has always been able to hit the baseball, just with not much power.

He sprays line drives all over the field, and thus far has continued to show that ability in his first major league camp, producing a line of .385/.500/.538. Russo is 5-13 with two doubles and an RBI.

Russo is likely competing with Ramiro Pena for the utility infield bench spot, but the Yankees do not need another stick. Pena’s superior fielding ability will land him in the majors, and Russo will likely start the season in Scranton.

In the equivalent two full seasons worth of at bats, the former 20th round pick is a career .300/.360/.403 hitter. That lack of power will hurt his opportunity to stay as a major leaguer.

But Russo has shown he will not hurt the major league squad in a brief call up and if an injury occurs, Russo will get a call to the Bronx.

5) Brandon Laird

The Yankees did not let an offseason scuffle with the law affect their commitment to Brandon Laird.

This guy can flat out hit.

In two full minor league seasons (and part of a third), Laird has mashed 44 home runs, knocked in 190 runs, and was named a Florida State League All-Star in 2009.

He has always started off slow but comes on late in the season. It might be the pressure he puts upon himself or in just getting acclimated to the new level and league.

In hitting 23 homers for Low A Charleston in 2008, 11 of them came in August. In 2009, Laird pounded out seven home runs and hit 47 points higher AFTER the 2009 FSL All-Star break. He has tremendous power to right center and his bat would fit very favorably in Yankee Stadium one day.

This spring, Brandon has gone 7-18 with a double and only one strikeout. As a power hitter, Laird has always made good contact and shown the ability to consistently put the ball in play.

While his defense has been suspect at times, he has played very well at third base this spring, and can also play first base. His desire is there, as he appears to have slimmed down considerably from last season.

While he realistically will not get moved up to the Bronx this year or next, the still 22-year-old Laird (his birthday is 9/11) will begin the season in AA Trenton.

Except for my honorable mention No.6 pick, there are really no other right-handed corner infielders this high at the Yankee level. If Laird stays slimmed down and keeps his newer quickness, it would not surprise me if the Yankees play him some in the outfield in Trenton to develop some defensive versatility.

No matter where he plays in the field, I expect Laird to continue to rake at AA and make a push for Triple-A late in the season.

6) Jorge Vazquez   HONORABLE MENTION

My sleeper pick for a 2010 Bronx call up is Mexican League import Jorge Vazquez.

After seven stellar, full seasons in the Mexican League, Vazquez was signed by the Yankees last season. He made his debut at AA Trenton and was ripping apart the league with a .329/357/.578/.935 OPS with 15 doubles, 13 homers and 56 RBI’s through 225 AB before getting hurt and missing the remained of the season.

While his defensive ability is a question mark, his hitting is not. He was very consistent in his Mexico playing days and in the equivalent of four full AAA seasons Vazquez hit .321/370/.595/.965 OPS with 103 doubles, 143 HR’s and 486 RBI’s.

It doesn’t matter where you are hitting, those are legit numbers.

Vazquez has been given adequate playing time this spring and while only 2-13 with four strikeouts, he has banged out two doubles and knocked in three runs. A few of his outs were screaming liners right at fielders, including a laser beam to LF in Game 2 against the Phillies which John Mayberry, Jr. made a sliding catch to rob Vazquez.

Vazquez is the wild card right handed Yankee power bat, which could allow them to give Jesus Montero a full season in Triple A, and send the overrated Marcus Thames packing. 

That saves the Yankees some time with Montero and about a million dollars with Thames.

Vazquez will begin the year in Triple A Scranton but do not be surprised if he is called up to the Bronx sometime this season.

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