Monday, January 27, 2014

Despite the vast amount of criticism the Yankee system has attracted in the past year there still are many players to root for. In this series we will be looking at the organizational depth at each Yankee position. This should show us a few of the Yankees better prospects at each position and the systems best sleeper prospects. The series will highlight the Yankee prospects that are most capable improving the system’s stock.

The first part of our series will look at the Yankees bullpen depth. This is an obvious starting point because the Yankees may need to rely on some of these prospects in order to succeed in 2014. As it stands, it is also one of the deepest areas in the system. This feature will be broken into 2 parts. The first will look at players that can contribute in 2014, while Part 2 will look at the systems lower level prospects and sleepers.

Major League Ready Right Handed Relievers:

The safest option to help the 2014 Yankees is Chase Whitley. If it weren’t for an oblique injury it is likely that Yankee fans would’ve already seen his debut. Whitley is known for his consistency, and has never had a bad season as Yankee. His consistent success led the Yankees to give him some time as starter in 2013, but he expected to be a reliever in the future. 

Whitley pitched two full seasons in AAA, so he would be able to transition to the big leagues at the start of the 2014 season. That is if he wins a job in spring training. If he does make the majors his strong changeup fastball combination should make him a viable middle relief option.

The next two options in this category, Dellin Betances and Mark Montgomery, are much riskier than Whitley, but have much more upside.

Like Whitley, Mark Montgomery would probably be in the majors already if an injury hadn’t slowed him down. However, Montgomery's shoulder injury seemed to have impacted his overall game. Montgomery lost a couple miles off of his fastball, and walked over 5 batters per 9 innings.

Despite his poor year he still had a k/9 of 11.03, so it was clear that his plus slider was still working. In addition to his slider and fastball, Montgomery occasionally, but rarely throws a changeup. If he is able to regain his fastball he should be able to become the next great Yankee setup man.

The next player in this category is very familiar to Yankee fans as a once great prospect. While Betances will never reach that level of hype again, he could still be a very productive player out of the pen. After being made a full time reliever Betances put up a k/9 of about 13 and an ERA of 1.35. Armed with a plus fastball and curveball, Betances may be salvageable as a reliever.

The final pitcher in the category is Daniel Burawa. Burawa is known for his fastball, which is generally 95 MPH and an inconsistent but good slider. Like Montgomery he also throws a changeup but it's more of a show me pitch.

After missing the entire 2012 season, Burawa needed some time to adjust to AA but ended the year very strong. In his last 18 innings in AA Burawa only allowed one run. Burawa should start 2014 in AAA, and will probably be added to the roster at some point during the season.

Major League Ready Left Handed Relievers:

Unfortunately the Yankees do not have a lefty version of Chase Whitley and all of their top left handed relievers are wildcards at this point. Despite the uncertainty in this category, they are several players with good potential in  AAA. With the departure of Boone Logan, some of these players will probably be called upon at some point.

If the Yankees choose to open camp with two left handed relievers, there is a good chance that Cesar Cabral is their man. Cabral initially came over to the Yankees through the Rule 5 Draft and has managed to stay a Yankee despite having a major injury.

Cabral arsenal is bigger than one might think he throws: a fastball, circle change, a slider and a curvebal. His changeup is probably his best pitch. With his combination of control and command he may end up being a serviceable reliever. As a part of the Yankees forty man roster Cabral has a good chance to be a part of the Yankees opening day bullpen.

 If Cabral proves inadequate at the major league level the Yankees have an emerging prospect in Fred Lewis who would be able to step up. Lewis is actually older than Cabral, but it has taken quite some time to put his game together.

Lewis throws a bit harder than Cabral sitting around 93 MPH, and has similar blend of secondary pitches. Lewis's main strength is the fact that he produces so many ground balls. In a recent interview farm director Mark Newman remarked “He has a good arm, throws 95 to 96 (mph) and can spin the ball,” .... “He had a stupid (3.57-1) ground ball-fly ball ratio.”

In total Lewis throws five pitches as he also throws a sinker. This combination of pitches should allow him to get righties and lefties out. The Yankees were very fortunate he wasn't selected in the Rule 5 Draft, and it is entirely possible that he beats Cabral for a spot in the Yankees pen. He has the ability to be a left-handed setup man.

The last major lefty that is on the verge of making the Yankees is Jeremy Bleich. At this point most fans have probably forgotten this former first round pick, as he has been injured for most of his tenure. However he really seemed to have turned things around in 2013.

Bleich pitched 65.1 solid innings in AA last year, which is about as much as he has thrown from 2010-2012. Most of these innings came as a reliever. Bleich has three average to above average pitches: a curveball, a changeup and a fastball. It has taken some time for him to regain his stuff post-shoulder surgery, but based off his numbers it appears that his stuff is finally back.

While he did start a few games last year, it is doubtful the Yankees let someone his age continue to develop as a starter. Considering how much time he has missed moving him to the pen full time makes a lot of sense, and as a reliever he can become a good middle reliever.

The 2014 Yankees seem to be done making major moves and chances are the success of the teams bullpen will depend on a few young relievers. Fortunately, the Yankees have several prospects who can contribute in 2014.


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