Tuesday, February 19, 2013

2013 Spring Training Roster Battles: 5th Starter

(Can Nova The Unknown shake off his terrible 2012?)

Now that all the players are in camp and team workouts have started, we can transition from introducing them to the unwashed masses who may not be familiar with every ST invitee to actually analyzing them and what they have on their respective plates this spring.

The Yankees are never short on spring roster competitions and this year is no exception.  There are four surefire roster spot battles that will be playing out over the course of this year's camp, and if you want to be bold and throw the right-handed DH role into the mix then there are five.  I personally don't consider that a real competition as that spot is basically going to be a revolving door for all the old, right-handed infielders on the roster and possibly Eduardo Nunez if the Yanks get tired of watching him botch shit in the field.  So four it is, and we're going to cover all four this week, starting with the most exciting and most time-honored of Yankee Spring Training competitions- the competition for the 5th spot in the starting rotation.

Yankees Put Four In Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects

Prospect season continued today with the unveiling of Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list.  This comes on the heels of Keith Law's Top 100 from two weeks ago and BA's 11th place ranking for the Yankee farm system as a whole last month.

The four players who made the cut come as no surprise.  Mason Williams ranked 32nd, Gary Sanchez 57th, Slade Heathcott 63rd, and Tyler Austin 77th.  Williams and Sanchez moved up the board significantly from their rankings last year (Sanchez was 81st, Williams 85th), and the inclusion of Heathcott and Austin gives the Yankees 4 in BA's Top 100 for the second straight year even after ManBan and Dellin Betances dropped off.

BA wasn't as high on this group as Law was in his rankings, but this continues the same trend that we've seen play out with the Yankee organizational rankings this offseason/preseason.  It's Williams, Sanchez, Austin, Heathcott, and everybody else.  Hopefully that talent gap gets closed some this season with some bounce back years from other top guys and a couple of big hits in this year's draft, but 4 in the top 77 is still pretty damn good.

Is Michael Pineda Ahead Of Schedule? Should We Be Excited About That?

(Courtesy of the AP)

Michael Pineda came to Yankee camp last year with high expectations.  He was a hulking 23-year-old kid coming off an impressive rookie season, the Yankees had just traded their best prospect in years to acquire him, and he represented the first significant move in the Yankees' efforts to get younger and get below the $189 million payroll threshold.  Long story short, those expectations were far from being met after Pineda showed up to camp overweight, struggled with his velocity and command, and eventually missed the whole 2012 season with a labrum tear in his pitching shoulder.

Pineda came to camp this year with no expectations.  He started his rehab throwing program in the fall, and the early words coming back from Brian Cashman and the coaching staff focused more on the idea of Pineda not pitching at all in 2013 than on exactly when he would be back.  Since arriving in Tampa, however, there's been a pretty noticeable shift in the Pineda discussion and evaluation, and there seems to be a renewed sense of positivity about the progress he's making.  With not a lot of other positive storylines to latch onto this spring, I'll raise the question.  Is it too early to start getting excited about Pineda's comeback?