Offering an educated guess as to who might come north with the Double-A Trenton Thunder was a fairly simple exercise. Naturally there may be a surprise or two, but the core of Al Pedrique’s club is pretty much set.
With Dave Miley’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, several questions remain. Who will be the starting catcher? Will right-hander Scott Baker be re-signed to a minor-league contract and join the Scranton rotation? Once super-utility player Jose Pirela is cleared to play, will he be optioned to the RailRiders?
There also will be movement, including the Yankees perhaps acquiring a non-tendered player who shuffles the deck even more. All this ought to settle by next Monday, but here is our fairly educated guess as to who could take the field against Syracuse in PNC Field April 9:
First Base – Kyle Roller, who hit .300 (137-for-456) between Trenton and Scranton in 2014, with 30 doubles, 26 homers and 74 RBIs, returns with his power bat. There are those who downgrade the Rockingham, N.C., native for lack of athleticism, but he had a .941 OPS last season. This is with Greg Bird right behind him in Trenton.
Second Base – This is totally according to plan, confirmed by the Yankees’ acquisition of infielder Gregorio Petit yesterday. Rob Refsnyder, with the terrific bat, will attend “finishing school” to improve his fielding to ascend to The Bronx in 2016. Nick Noonan, reassigned to minor-league camp Thursday with Refsnyder, looms as a backup.
Shortstop – Not certain what will transpire here. Hard-working Ali Castillo deserves a spot, and may well have one, but Cole Figueroa could see time here as well.
Third Base – Rob Segedin is certain to return here after a 21-game stint at Triple-A in 2014, where he batted just .143 (11-for-85) after hitting .283 (92-for-325) in 92 games at Trenton. This is also Jonathan Galvez’s main position.
Catcher – The million-dollar question as of today. Will John Ryan Murphy be sent down because Austin Romine is out of options? Will the Yankees try to get Romine through waivers? Will they trade him and keep Murphy in New York? Will Romine stay in New York? Eddy Rodriguez is the Triple-A backup. Francisco Arcia can also play here, and at other spots.
Outfield – This shapes up as a simple matter, with Ramon Flores, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Taylor Dugas – all of whom poised to prove a point and advance their respective careers. Cuban Adonis Garcia was released Friday.
Starting Pitchers – Right-handers Kyle Davies, Bryan Mitchell and Zach Nuding were assigned to Scranton, while lefty Matt Tracy, who was 1-6, 4.45 in 12 appearances (11 starts) also returns. Baker could round out the rotation if re-signed. Other candidates are righty Caleb Cotham and lefty Jose DePaula. Chase Whitley was optioned to the RailRiders Thursday and can start or relieve. Top prospect Luis Severino ought to arrive by mid-season.
Bullpen – Lefty Jacob Lindgren is likely to start here and look to advance to the majors some time in 2015. Righties Mark Montgomery and Jose Ramirez will attempt to get their careers back on track. Nick Rumbelow and Tyler Webb are destined for Triple-A. This also seems to be righty Branden Pinder’s landing spot. Diego Moreno is still around. Danny Burawa could end up here or in Trenton.
All of this shows how much more depth the Yankees have at the upper levels as compared to a few years ago. There are other players who will either find a home, or be traded or released. The system is also getting younger in these areas. No matter how both the Trenton and Scranton rosters appear in April, both could look a lot different in June.