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New York Yankee 2009 Outlook: Prospects

With Spring Training running at full speed, I’m beginning to realize that while I enjoy the other sports our society offers, baseball still is the sport that I get most excited about.

The Yankees had a busy offseason, and coming off their first season without a playoff berth in over a decade, I’m certainly excited beyond normal measures. I’m going to take a look at the outlook for the Yankees this year, one group at a time.

February 23: Prospects

March 2: Infield

March 9: Outfield

March 16: Bullpen

March 23: Rotation

10. Mark Melancon, RHP
Melancon missed 2007 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and spent 2008 working on regaining his stuff. He works mainly off two pitches, a two-seamer and a biting curveball. Tabbed by some within the Yankees organization as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, Melancon has only 20 innings above AA-ball and still has a ways to go before putting his injury past behind him.

9. Phil Coke, LHP
Called up late in 2008 to provide left-handed innings out of the Major League bullpen, Coke is entering spring training as a starter. While I’m generally a fan of letting pitchers start until they prove that they absolutely cannot handle it, Coke’s lack of a third quality pitch paired with his bullpen success for the Yankees makes me think Coke should stay in the bullpen.

EDIT 1:33PM – Wouldn’t you know it, not 24 after I posted this, Joe Girardi informed reporters that Coke would pitch out of the bullpen. Coke being left-handed and his fastball/slide combo make him an ideal candidate to be used as a situational lefty, or toss multiple innings if needed.

8. Zach McAllister, RHP
I have a hard time talking about Yankee prospects that are starting pitchers, because the Yankee rotation looks pretty set for foreseeable future. McAllister features a hard sinker that’s comparable to Chien-Ming Wang’s. He mixes in a four-seamer and a changeup, but doesn’t necessarily blow hitters away. He relies on the guys behind him and pitches to contact.

7. Jeremy Bleich, LHP
Bleich immediately became the Yankees top-rated left-handed starter when they drafter him in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft. He’s a smart, Andy Pettitte-type lefty that mixes in two above-average off-speed pitches with his fastball. Bleich could be a candidate to rocket through the system if his elbow injury isn’t an issue.

6. Austin Romine, C
The Yankees system lacks in quality positional players, but Romine qualifies as one. Splitting time with the Yankees other catching stud, Romine demonstrated a good feel for hitting, with fleeting power potential. He’ll spend 2009 working to continually improve his handling and receiving behind the plate, as well as building on an encouraging offensive showing.

5. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP
Being comparable to Scott Kazmir is a pretty nice way to start your professional career. Arodys won’t turn nineteen until after the season, and already has an impressive grasp on his above-average fastball and power slider. His command is impressive for such a young prospect and is dripping in potential.

4. Andrew Brackman, RHP
A two-sport athlete (baseball & basketball) at NC State, Brackman was drafted by the Yankees knowing he needed Tommy John surgery. Brackman uses his 6’10 frame to power his 98-99mph fastball which he complements with an excellent curveball. Because of injury and basketball, Brackman hasn’t pitched consistently since high school and will take a while to readjust. He tops out with staff ace potential, but carries considerable risk. He is however, an excellent athlete for someone his size.

3. Dellin Betances, RHP
Betances has had scouts fawning over his pure stuff for several years now, but he’s still only 20 years old. He’s struggled with injuries and command issues, but when he’s on, there’s no one with more dominating stuff in the Yankees system. He is constantly working on repeating his delivery to improve his control and health. He’s a power arm with considerable upside, but like Brackman, he has command and injury concerns. He’ll need to continue to develop his changeup to go along with his overpowering fastball and power curve.

2. Austin Jackson, CF
Jackson is probably the best New York positional prospect in terms of ceiling and certainty. He’s an athletic outfielder who rates above-average across the board, but lacks one standout tool. He broke out in 2007, but failed to push the Yankees hand the following year. Jackson will begin the year at AAA Scranton but may see the Bronx this year depending on the production levels of Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera.

1. Jesus Montero, C
Has legitimate 80 power on the 20-80 scale, although it’s still somewhat raw. He hit .326 for Single-A last season, including a .344 mark in the second half. He’s a pure hitter with no discernible weakness at the plate, as he recognizes and handles any type of pitch. The question with Montero is whether he’ll improve enough defensively to stick at catcher. He’s big, and at 18, probably not done filling out. He struggles blocking balls and his arm strength is less than ideal. More than likely, Montero will hit enough to be an all-star anywhere, but just like pitchers, I believe it’s best to let Montero catch until he proves he absolutely can’t handle it.