We are at at the halfway point of Spring Training 2015. Yankees prospects are beginning to filter back across the street and down the block from Steinbrenner Field to the Himes Complex, where minor-league operations are centered.
At Himes, outfielder Aaron Judge and others, even after making an impression in Grapefruit League games, will begin preparing for their respective minor-league seasons.
However, as we all know, Spring Training is a chance for prospects to show Yankees manager Joe Girardi and his staff just where they may fit in the club’s overall planning. Here is what both the Yankees – and interested observers – have seen from prospects in big-league Grapefruit League games so far in Tampa:
Aaron Judge, OF – In batting .250 (3-for-12) in nine games, Judge showed his power, hitting a game-tying home run off Phillies reliever Mario Hollins at Clearwater, and also displaying solid outfield play. He needs to work on handling off-speed pitches, which he will get a a steady diet of in the Eastern League at Double-A Trenton.
Rob Refsnyder, 2B – As of this morning, Refsnyder is still in big-league camp. He is hitting .375 (7-for-16) as expected, but also has had issues defensively, as expected, He registered a few throwing errors and has failed to turn the double play in situations, items he will work on at Triple-A Scranton.
Jake Cave, OF – He continues to get the bat on the ball – hitting .417 (6-for-12) in 10 games. He also is showing more patience at the plate, as he needs to cut down on strikeouts. Cave will look to make progress at Trenton in a few weeks.
Cito Culver, SS – Oh, can the man make the plays, effectively and gracefully. But will he ever hit? Culver has appeared in 10 Grapefruit League games and is batting .077 (1-for-13). He will get perhaps a final chance to show he can hold his own at the plate at Trenton this season.
Slade Heathcott, OF – Now on a minor-league contract after a non-tender over the winter, Heathcott is healthy and seems to have new focus. He has been the star of the prospects in Spring Training, batting .500 (6-for-12) in nine games and could remain in big-league camp for awhile. He is reclaiming his spot in Yankees plans, and will head to Scranton next month.
Greg Bird, 1B – Has impressed all. Several have remarked Bird looks like a major-league player. Excellent bat control. Hitting .385 (5-for-13) with good decisions at the plate. Will head to Trenton to start season, then move to Scranton.
Francisco Arcia, C – This underrated player, who is batting .400 (2-for-5) in three appearances, is an overshadowed performer who does a lot of things well. He likely will be the starting catcher at Double-A Trenton – he can also play first base – and could have a strong season.
Gary Sanchez, C – It is hard to put a finger on it, but there seems to be something lacking at times. Sanchez is hitting only .111 (1-for-9) in six appearances, and he still needs to work on his overall game and with his pitching staff. That will take place at Scranton in 2015.
Jose Pirela, 2B – He has done nothing to degrade himself defensively, and has flashed one of the top bats among the Yankees with a .421 (8-for-19) average. Pirela is pushing hard for a Yankees bench spot when the team heads north in a few weeks.
Tyler Austin, OF – Scuffling a bit at the plate, hitting just .143 (2-for-14) in nine games, Austin is playing hard. After an excellent Arizona Fall League season, he remains healthy, and will join Heathcott in the Scranton outfield in April.
Mason Williams, OF – In what has been something of a positive surprise, Williams, a former top prospect who has been an enigma, is hitting .333 (4-f0r-12) in nine Grapefruit League appearances. Better yet, his plate discipline and selection appear improved. We’ll see at Trenton in a few weeks.
Jacob Lindgren, LHP – Has not allowed an earned run in four innings and four appearances. He also has an 8-2 strikeout/walk ratio. Lindgren is concentrating on control, which appears to be coming around. He could likely attend “finishing school” for a few months in Scranton, then join the Yankees’ bullpen later in 2015.
Jason Long, RHP – In two appearances, Long, a sinker-slider pitcher with an excellent change, has more than held his own in Grapefruit League games. Has the best control in the Yankees system. Handled Double-A easily in 2014 and will get a shot at Scranton this spring. Not a velocity king, but keeps hitters off-balance by throwing drops and hitting spots.
Luis Severino, RHP – The Yankees’ top prospect with an impressive arsenal, he was 0-0, 6.75 in two appearances and 2.2 innings in Grapefruit play. Sent back to minor-league camp, Severino likely starts at Trenton before a trip to Scranton. If all goes well, he could be a September call-up.
We will be keeping an eye on what Yankees prospects do in both the big-league camp and at Himes over the next few weeks. The minor-league Grapefruit League schedule begins Friday.