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With the off season winding down, I figure that it is about time to see where everybody is going to wind up. The Yankees manage to emerge from a slow post-2011 off season while hanging on to all of their top pitching prospects. I have prepared this graphic in order to attempt to project where they will all end up.

Brian Cashman wasn’t kidding when he said that our upper minor league rotations are full. The Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees and Double-A Trenton Thunder will have, by some measures, 10 prospects to fill 10 rotation spots. Craig Heyer and Shaeffer Hall are certainly the runts of the group, but they are a big improvement on the years when these kinds of guys took those spots. There is some downside to that of course – players won’t really be able to move up to a higher level in the middle of the season without an injury clearing the way. And of course, an injury means that a valuable prospect just went down. Last season saw guys like Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos make unexpectedly quick rises through the minor leagues. That won’t be as easy for Brett Marshall and Jose Ramirez, and it could keep a strongly performing Graham Stoneburner stuck at Double-A. Plus, if Nova gets bumped down to the minors, it throws the whole system into disarray. Still, that’s not a bad problem to have.

Scranton gets to start off with Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi and David Phelps. Each has their own little test. Brackman has to continue to pitch within his mechanics like he did last year, since this is his last year with any options. David Phelps has to prove that his stuff plays to advanced hitters. Hector Noesi has a similar story – he needs to show whether or not his control of the strike zone holds up as he nears the majors. For Noesi, it will be about defining whether or not he can be a Major League innings eater or a serious impact starting pitcher. Adam Warren needs to follow up his standout performance at Trenton last season with another one, or start to face a possible bullpen conversion. D.J. Mitchell needs to learn to get lefties out, or he will be the first starting pitcher converted to the bullpen after Dellin Betances has a 15 strikeout game.

The story in Trenton is no doubt about Banuelos and Betances. Betances needs to stay healthy. He hasn’t had a truly healthy season since 2008, and smart watchers are very concerned that he’ll continue to be brittle. Height issues aside, Banuelos has none of those concerns. We’ll be looking for him to reestablish the amazing velocity he showcased last season, and continue to put up eye-popping numbers. Graham Stoneburner both has to follow up a phenomenal breakout season and deal with the struggle of being overshadowed by some many prospects above him. No matter how well he does, Stoneburner will probably not budge from the Trenton rotation all year. Too many guys are ahead of him. Heyer and Hall aren’t great prospects, but Heyer did pull off a 0.6 BB/9 last year, so who knows. Maybe he’s pretty good.

Brett Marshall could make Tampa very exciting this year. He’s a better prospect than people realize, and certainly made an impression after coming back from surgery last season. His challenge will be to strike out more batters with his 95-97 mph fastball, since he has averaged just 7.0 K/9 in 3 minor league seasons. Jose Ramirez joins him in the underrated category, and a strong performance could see him competing with Marshall to bump one of Hall or Heyer from Trenton. Jairo Heredia is still seeking redemption behind them, but hasn’t recovered well from shoulder issues. Sean Black may be the next David Phelps, but I know nothing about Kelvin Perez.

In Charleston, we’re searching for a breakout. Bryan Mitchell is one of the bigger sleepers in the organization. He profiles a lot like Brett Marshall, with wild, untamed flamethrowing stuff and at times a killer curveball. Varce and Burawa are experienced college arms who could climb up the ladder quickly, and both Richardson and O’Brien have some potential to be decent. Its a solid bunch, even if none have become all that exciting yet. However, a strong performance could put any of them on the map as future MLB prospects, especially Mitchell.

Of course, these are just projections. Adam Warren could be bumped from the Scranton rotation in favor of a veteran (one of Colon or Garcia perhaps) or Ivan Nova. On the lower end, the Yankees could push experienced players like Zach Varce or Daniel Burawa to Tampa, while cutting either Jairo Heredia or Kelvin Perez. One of the EST starters could impress in spring training and start in Charleston. Burawa could also be one of several to be converted to relief pitching along with D.J. Mitchell and Taylor Morton.

Which rotation is the most interesting to pay attention to? Obviously, its a contest between Trenton and Scranton, though Marshall and Ramirez could make some noise down in Tampa. Scranton has 5 legitimate prospects, while Trenton is kind of dragging along their bottom two. Still, I go with Trenton, where Betances and Banuelos will put on a show two days out of every 5.

7 Responses to “Projecting the 2011 Minor League Rotations”

  1. Kyle Turley should start in Charleston.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    Since when is Kyle Turley playing baseball? I remember him being a badass guard/Tackle for the Rams but he was just a bit crazy, what with throwing his helmet in the crowd and all the tribal tattoos and what not.  (Quote)

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  2. I’m pretty sure Burawa is already a reliever, so I imagine he’ll stay one this year. I could definitely see Nik Turley in Charleston.  (Quote)

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  3. i forgot Jairo Heredia was alive. Brett Marshall is the ace of that Tampa rotation.  (Quote)

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  4. Hall is a loogy waiting to happen. Small lefties with fringey stuff and good change-ups make it more often than corresponding right handers, but such successes are still rare. He is unlikely to be converted until he hits some serious bumps, but any realistic forecast sees him hitting those bumps somewhere in AA or AAA. Thus, I could see him get bumped from the rotation somewhere mid-season to make room for reshuffling.

    Burawa already is a short reliever and pegged as being a future short reliever, no? Have you seen anything to indicate the Yanks may start him to build arm strength or work on secondary stuff, or even have a plan to convert him long term?

    I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Warren start in AA, with Nova at AAA for the first month of the season (staying sharp until a regular-rest 5th starter is needed in NY). After Nova gets called up, who then gets the bump to replace Nova in AAA could then take into account how Warren, Banuelos and Betances are doing. I could see, for example, Warren being solid/good, but one of the other two having crazy numbers and thus being given preference for a promotion.

    Tampa would be completely boring without Marshall. Charleston should be fun to watch, with four high upside types likely in that rotation (Mitchell, Richardson, O’Brien, and probably Turley).  (Quote)

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