Tampa Yankees alumni include Yankees legends such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. And during the 2nd half of the season, several players showed that they have what to takes to possibly join those legends in the honor of wearing pinstripes.
Unfortunately, a trip to the Florida State League playoffs was not to be for the Tampa Yankees, who were doomed by a subpar first half, finishing the stanza with a 33-37 mark before recovering in the latter portion of the season with a 38-31 tally, good enough to finish the season with a winning record a 71-68.
Perhaps the most promising prospect out of Cigar City was OF Jake Cave, a 2011 6th round pick from Hampton, VA. Cave spent 90 games in the Florida State League, compiling solid statistics with a .304 average (4th in the FSL), 3 home runs and 24 RBI. Cave also led the team in hits with 117. The 21 year old was not around for the final stretch of the Yankees’ run, however, as on July 17, four days after a 3-4 day in Bradenton in which he scored the Yankees’ two runs in a 6-2 loss, Cave was promoted to the AA Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League. While he’ll no doubt miss the warmth and beaches of Florida…and maybe being walking distance from Raymond James Stadium…Cave is no doubt excited for the next of his baseball journey, and it showed with a respectable .273 average in Trenton.
Another notable Tampa Yankee was Dante Bichette. No, not the four time Colorado Rockies All-Star and 1995 Silver Slugger Award winner, but his son of the same name, an addition from the 2011 Compensation draft. Bichette, who also briefly spent time in Trenton this season, made he sure he was known for more than just his name, leading the team in RBIs with 64 (8th in the FSL) and doubles with 27. The Yankees are slightly concerned with the slugger’s strikeout problem (he led the team with 90), but if the younger Bichette keeps up his hitting pace, he can do something his father never did…wear the interlocking NY at Yankee Stadium.
While most of the attention in the baseball world focused on the departure of a certain shortstop who wore the number two, in Tampa, it’s not a tribute to the past, but a sign of things to come as Cito Culver remains one of the Yankees’ most exciting prospects. A native of Rochester, NY, Culver spent a full year in The Big Guava after playing 16 games with the team last year, before which he had worn uniforms in Charleston and Staten Island. Culver’s name was all over the top half of Tampa stat book, as he led the team in games played (132), runs (68), and walks (57). With a full season of Tampa baseball under his belt, the next step for Culver is to not spend a full season there next year…and rather try to split time with Tampa and Trenton, or even possibly Scranton Wilkes-Barre.
In the other part of the game, SP Miguel Sulbaran impressed despite a pedestrian 4-5 record. The 20 year old Venezuela native had an ERA (3.52) that ranked 10th in the league, as well as a WHIP (1.18) that finished in the top five. His 85 strikeouts ranked 2nd on the team only to Rafael De Paula, who also led the team in wins with 6. Closer Cesar Vargas led the team with 11 saves, which ranked 5th in the league.
Preparation for next year’s Florida State League now begins in Arizona. It’s never a lifetime goal to stay in Tampa but the guys there now will continue to get better. With New York on their minds in the future, it will lead to success for Tampa now.