It’s hard to believe the Trenton Thunder, the Yankees’ Double-A farm team’s first under new manager Bobby Mitchell, begins the 2016 season with the Erie SeaWolves visiting Arm&Hammer Park April 7.
While we really won’t know who is on the club until camp breaks the first week of April, we can guess who will be the key leaders in Trenton to start the season.
Don’t hold us to this, mainly because the Yankees system has much more depth than it used to.
Here are our guesses by position:
This can still go a couple of ways, but the guess is the Yankees will go with a veteran duo here, which would be Kyle Higashioka and Sebastian Valle.
With the trade of Eric Jagielo to Cincinnati, first base opens for Bucks County guy Billy Fleming, an impressive hitter who can sleep at home in Churchville, Pa., when the Thunder are home if he chooses, At third base, it looks like Dante Bichette Jr. will get his chance to get his game in gear at the start.
Shortstop will be the home to Tyler Wade to start the season, while Abiatal Avelino has earned a shot at second base in the upper minors. Others who could be in the mix are middle infielder Jose Rosario, veteran utility player Dan Fiorito and third baseman Deibinson Romero, because veterans such as Donovan Solano and Jonathan Diaz will likely be more than happy to accept assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
This will be the most fluid area on the Trenton club, as both shortstop Jorge Mateo and third baseman Miguel Andujar are likely to earn promotion to the Garden State at mid-season.
The Trenton position player in the spotlight to start the season is center fielder Dustin Fowler, who is the Yankees’ No. 10 prospect according to Baseball America. His combination of speed, solid defense, a good batting eye and developing power is exciting. The Yankees usually like to place a veteran outfielder with power at Trenton, which would equate to Cesar Puello, who was a rising Mets prospect before he got mixed up in the Biogenesis Scandal. At Binghamton, he feasted on Thunder pitching in 2013, and his absence due to suspension hurt the B-Mets in the postseason playoffs as the Thunder won the Eastern League title.
Others likely in the mix are Jared Mitchell, Mark Payton, Jake Skole and Devyn Bolasky.
Right-hander Cale Coshow, who showed excellent velocity and mound presence, will likely lead the starting rotation with righty control artist Eric Ruth. Left-hander Caleb Smith will likely start with the Thunder. Lefty Jordan Montgomery and righty Jonathan Holder are top candidates to fill the other roles. Lefties Dan Camarena and Miguel Sulbaran, both coming back from injuries, and righty Jaron Long are still around. Expect righty James Kaprielian sometime later in the season.
The bullpen can always be in flux at this level. The new guy on the block is Chance Adams, who has a chance to move quickly. Angel Rincon will also likely end up down the Arm&Hammer Park right-field line. Alex Smith and newcomer Tyler Jones are also in the mix.
Will this be the roster we see April 5? Likely not totally, but, as the newest New York State Lottery game proclaims, we think we are “close enough.”