With minor league opening day rapidly approaching in just over two weeks time, spring training reaches the pivotal juncture when minor league players are reassigned and final roster spots begin to iron themselves out.
The Yankees farm system has been acclaimed for the immense depth that it has been able to stockpile over the last two seasons. As a result, the organization had to part with many talented prospects in various trades and 40-man roster crunch decisions. With MLB opening day set for March 29, Pinstriped Prospects thought that this would be a good time to scour the rosters around the league to see which former Yankees prospects could win big league jobs over the next ten days.
Mike Ford – Seattle Mariners: Ford was one of four Yankees taken in the Rule-5 draft in December. The left-handed first baseman has slashed just .196/.339/.687 with nine hits and six runs scored in 46 at-bats for Seattle. He has hit one homer and driven in eight runs. The New Jersey-native looks like he may have a tough time sticking when the Mariners break camp.
Jose Mesa Jr. – Baltimore Orioles: One of two hurlers taken by the Orioles in the Rule 5 draft, Mesa has gone 3-1 in five appearances for Baltimore. In 7 2/3 innings of work, the right-hander has gone 3-1 with a 5.87 ERA while allowing 10 hits and seven walks with 5 strikeouts; the opposition is hitting .333 against him. Mesa is one of three Rule-5 selections fighting for a roster spot with the Orioles, and Mesa appears to be in a tough position to stick, but is said to be in the mix for the final spot in their bullpen.
Nestor Cortes – Baltimore Orioles: Cortes appears poised to stick with Baltimore and break camp with the team when they head north. The southpaw has appeared in four games, starting three of them, and has pitched reasonably well considering the cast of arms he is competing with for a job. After making three starts early in camp, Manager Buck Showalter most recently used Cortes out of the bullpen for a long relief stint against the Yankees last Wednesday. In 3 1/3 innings of work against his former team, the crafty lefty allowed just one hit and struck out four batters. In total Cortes has gone 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA while allowing 12 hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.
Anyelo Gomez – Atlanta Braves– Gomez was a fairy unknown commodity in the Yankees system when the 2017 season began. The 25-year old right-hander began the season with Low-A Charleston and pitched himself all the way to Triple-A by the time the season came to a close. The Braves opted to select Gomez in the Rule-5 draft and before recent struggles his last few appearances, seemed like a good bet to make the Atlanta Roster. The numbers as a whole are not pretty, in seven games, Gomez has gone 1-1 with a10.80 ERA. He has allowed ten runs in 8 1/3 innings, but nine of the ten runs have been allowed in his last two appearances. People close to the Braves organization believe it will be difficult for Gomez to make the big league club, though it is possible that they could swing a deal with the Yankees in order to retain his rights and send him to Triple-A.
Colten Brewer – San Diego Padres: The Yankees acquired Brewer as a minor league Rule-5 pick from the Pirates in 2017. He was a reliable piece out of the Trenton bullpen last season, but struggled in short stints up in Triple-A. It was somewhat of a surprise when the San Diego Padres inked Brewer to a major league deal fairly early this past winter based on the fact that he had only pitched in six career games above Double-A. The Padres reportedly scouted Brewer fairly heavily last season and the early return this spring has been quite impressive. The 25-year old righty has pitched in 8 eight games and has gone 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He has allowed seven hits and five walks but fanned nine over 7 2/3 innings of work.
Dustin Fowler – Oakland Athletics: The Yankees were extremely high on Fowler, but the gruesome knee injury that he suffered during his big league debuted last season made him expendable when it came to making a trade for a bona fide starting pitcher last July. Now medically cleared, Fowler entered spring training fully healthy with a chance to win the starting CF job for Oakland. In 30 at-bats thus far, the 23-year old has slashed just .167/.219/.452 in 12 games with four runs scored, two RBI and three stolen bases. Fowler is fighting with Boog Powell for the job, and the race will likely come down to the final days of camp.
Caleb Smith – Miami Marlins: The Yankees essentially dumped Smith to Miami this past winter to clear roster space, and the southpaw figures to pitch a lot of innings this season in a swing role for the Marlins. Smith has pitched in five games this spring and got his first start of the campaign against his former team yesterday. The southpaw surrenders five runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts in three innings. Prior to his outing on Sunday, the 26-year old Smith had pitched to a 2.45 ERA in four appearances out of the bullpen; he had allowed just seven hits and fanned 11 in 11 innings of work.
Garrett Cooper – Miami Marlins: On a team that was stripped to the studs this past winter, the 27-year old Cooper figures to get his fair share of at-bats with the Marlins this season. In 17 games so far this spring, the first baseman has gone 11-for-41 (.268) with a homer and two RBI with three runs scored. With Justin Bour still around and projected to play just about everyday at first base, the Marlins have given Cooper reps in the outfield this spring in order to increase his versatility so that they can get his bat in the lineup.
Bryan Mitchell – San Diego Padres: The soon-to-be 27-year old Mitchell had been talked up in the Yankees system for quite a while before they dealt him along with Chase Headley to the Padres this past December. While Mitchell still has good stuff, injuries and inconsistency had caused him to lose a defined role in the Yankees crowded system. The Bombers had utilized Mitchell in a swing role on the Scranton shuttle over the course of the last two seasons, but Padres manager Andy Green confirmed this weekend that Mitchell is definitely going to be in the teams rotation when the season begins. He has made three starts this spring, and has gone 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA; he has fanned six and walked three in eight innings of work.
Ronald Herrera – Texas Rangers: The 22-year old Herrera will start the season on the disabled list for the second consecutive season. Herrera was hoping to be cleared to throw last week, instead he received a PRP injection to treat labrum inflammation and will be shutdown until at least July.
Mason Williams – Cincinnati Reds: It seemed like it was just yesterday that a young Mason Williams was the crown jewel of the Yankees farm system. These days, the now 26-year old outfielder is fighting for a role on the Reds big league roster after inking a minor league deal with them over the winter. So far this spring, Williams has turned in a solid showing by going 9-for-33 (.273) with four doubles and six runs scored. Reds manager Bryan Price had highlighted Williams as a player who had stood out to him early on in camp, and Williams remaining in camp at this late juncture means that he could be in line to secure to big league job.
Rob Refsnyder – Cleveland Indians: Once upon a time, Refsnyder was viewed as a potential key bat to the Yankees future. Fast forward a few years and the soon-to-be 27-year old still does not have a defensive position where he is not a liability and his bat has never reached its potential. The Yankees dealt Refsnyder to Toronto last summer for Ryan McBroom before he was claimed on waivers by Cleveland this past November. While Refsnyder battles for the final spot in a crowded outfield competition, he has slashed just .216/.333/.739 with two homers, 6 RBI, and six runs scored.
Ji-Man Choi – Milwaukee Brewers: Coming off a really solid year in the Yankees system, 26-year old first baseman Ji-Man Choi inked a minor league deal with the Brewers this past winter to provide them with first base depth. Choi has been one of the hottest hitters in Arizona this spring and as a result has brought himself into the conversation for a big league bench job. In 31 at-bats this spring, Choi has slashed .419/.525/1.396 with three homers, nine RBI and seven runs scored.
Tyler Jones– Pittsburgh Pirates: Tyler Jones seemingly pitched well enough in the Yankees system over the last two seasons to earn at least a cup of coffee in the majors. After falling victim to a crowded and talented log jam of right-handed relievers, the 28-year old Jones is facing a similar situation with his new team in Pittsburgh. The right-hander has allowed just three hits and has not walked a batter over 6 2/3 scoreless innings for the Pirates this spring. While the Bucs pen appears to be full, Jones has given them every reason to at least consider bringing him north.