It is a field of dreams for the kids? Like something out of a Final Destination sequel, it seems that some unknown forces are determined to send the Yankees’ most talented players, the stalwart foundations of the roster, to the dreaded disabled list. Other players who were supposed to be the next wave of young talent have not panned out, forcing the team to go to other players in the minor leagues to find some support. The silver lining in all this is that the Yankees get an opportunity to see how the farm stacks up against major league players and where they land in the development cycle. If you are a kid on the way up, this is the year!
Zoilo Almonte must think he won the lottery. With left fielder Vernon Wells becoming a virtual black hole in the lineup, the Yankees call Almonte up and he goes on a hitting rampage. He has yet to cool down, with a slash line of .318/.400/.545, and a perfect fielding percentage as of this writing. It is hard to call him a kid at age 30, but Jayson Nix is another player who has benefited from concurrent injuries to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, and Eduardo Nunez. He may not be winning any batting titles or Gold Gloves, but in the Yankees’ hour of need, he is hitting 25 points above his career batting average and fielding at 10 points above his career fielding percentage. David Adams initially starting hitting terrifically, but now he has faded. I think what we’ve seen is that Adams has the potential to be a real force in the future, but maybe he’s not quite ready for the big leagues. Still, we have all had a good view of what he can do.
(In Photo: Adam Warren)
What can we say about the pitching? Adam Warren has been stellar since the Yankees’ need for a more reliable bullpen surfaced. He had two bad outings around the end of May, but aside from those, his ERA is a hair above 1. The opposition is hitting .257 against him and he is sporting a K/9 of 6.69. At age 25, in his first full season, that is not too shabby. Preston Claiborne has been impressive since the Yankees called him up in early May. In 21 appearances, he has held the opposition scoreless 18 times and hitless 9 times. Seven times, he did not allow a base runner. Sixteen times, he recorded at least one strikeout. In short, he has been consistent and he has been good. Finally, while he has not pitched in the majors this season yet, Michael Pineda has been tearing up the minors, and the Yankees are expecting his imminent return to the rotation.
The news is not all rosy, however, even amongst the healthy. With the success of some of the recent call-ups, it raises the obvious question of what to do with the old guard. Joba Chamberlain should be feeling some pressure from the success of the kids. His ERA is still in the 6 range, and he has yet to put in consecutive run-less appearances in the month of June. Phil Hughes has turned into the poster boy for the failed experiment. Despite the potential we all saw earlier in his career, he is proving his supporters wrong and is the subject of many trade rumors. Likewise, for Ivan Nova, 2011 is far in the rear view mirror. I have always loved Super Nova, but he has lived up to his nickname – a huge explosion that emits huge amounts of energy, followed by a steady fade to dark.
The Yankees have had a great look at how the next generation of players will fare against top-line opponents. We have seen how they handle the pressure, and how well they can perform under that pressure. If nothing else, the Yankees are in a better place to make informed decisions on which players to invest in, and on which ones they can cut bait.
--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Writer
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row
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