Monday, November 22, 2004

In other news . . . / exploring the 40-man roster 

At long last there is some news from Yankee land, though it's all pretty small potatoes.

Item: Gary Sheffield is finally having surgery on his left shoulder. A month's rest didn't do the trick, so Dr. James Andrews is getting out the ole arthroscope. The surgery will take place tomorrow (Tuesday) and should require just four to five weeks rehab.

Item: the Yankees have reclaimed shortstop "prospect" Ferdin Tejada from the San Diego Padres. The Padres got Tejada after the Yankees designated him for assignment to make room for C.J. Nitkowski on the 40-man roster back in August. After making an appearance in spring training for the Yanks, the 22-year-old Tejada started the year in AA Trenton but didn't hit a lick and was quickly demoted, finishing the year with single-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres' system. Yes, folks, this amounts to news in November.

The Yankees also added three players to their 40-man roster in the past week, Tejada being one of them. The other two are 22-year-old second base "prospect" Robinson Cano, who was promoted to Columbus along with Dioner Navarro in the middle of the 2004 season and . . . Colter Bean! For non BRB regulars (as if such people would be stopping by now of all times), Bean is a soon-to-be 28-year-old minor league relief ace who could have helped the overtaxed Yankee pen down the stretch and in the playoffs but wasn't given as much as a September call-up. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Bean could have helped the Yankees make it to the World Series, if not win it. Of course, we'll never know.

To set the roster (which currently stands at 34 men due to players such as Lieber, Cairo, El Duque, Ruben Sierra and essentially the entire bench having declared free agency), here are the minor leaguers who are on the Yankees' 40-man:

Jason Anderson: 25-year-old reliever who made the Yankees out of camp in 2003 only to be traded to the Mets in the Armando Benitez trade that June. He passed through the Mets and Indians systems with a smattering of poor major league appearances with both teams before returning to the Yankees as a waiver claim this June.

Colter Bean

Jorge DePaula: The 26-year-old Dominican battled Donovan Osborne for the fifth spot in the rotation out of camp this year (thanks to Jon Lieber's injured groin), but blew out his elbow after just one start and three relief appearances. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April and is expected to start throwing again in time for spring training, though it's very unlikely that he will find his way back to the big club in 2005.

Alex Graman: The 27-year-old lefty is/was one of the organization's top pitching prospects. He's pitched well in Columbus for three seasons, but was absolutely moidilized in two starts with the Yankees this season, to such a degree that his future with the organization is in serious doubt and his value as a trading chip is almost nil.

Brad Halsey: The baby-faced lefty will be 24 on Valentine's Day. He showed flashes of potential in seven major league starts this season. His strong minor league track record, favorable K/BB numbers and extreme lefty split with the big club suggest a solid future in the bigs along the lines of fellow lefty and former Yankee farm hand Ted Lilly, if only the organization has the smarts to give him the chance.

Sean Henn: Following a spring training invite, Henn, a lefty starter who is two months younger than Halsey, spent all of 2004 in AA Trenton where he had an average season.

Sam Marsonek: The 26-year-old Marsonek, who came over from the Rangers in the Chad Curtis trade, got a shot with the big club just prior the All-Star break. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a blowout before slipping on a dock during the break and landing on the 60-day DL with a knee injury. He's since pitched in the Arizona fall league and will hope to build on a solid year in Columbus and get another shot at the soft side of the Yankee pen.

Bret Prinz and Scott Proctor: I'm still not sure they're really different people. Both are fireballing righties who fall prey to the usual pitfalls for fireballing relievers (flat fastballs, wildness). Both pitched well in Columbus last year, but were inconsistent with the big club, both posting ERAs in the fives in 26 appearances. Both came over in dump trades, Prinz for Raul Mondesi, Proctor for Robin Ventura. Proctor is six months older and will turn 28 in January.

Ramon Ramirez: The 23-year-old Dominican righty is worth keeping an eye on. He's had some great K/BB numbers, though he has yet to put it together in the minors. He spent most of 2004 in Trenton, though he's seen action in Columbus in each of the last two seasons after coming over from Japan in 2002. His 2004 season was interrupted by tendonitis in his pitching shoulder, which is also something to keep an eye on.

Edwardo Sierra: A minor league closer who came over from the A's organization in the Chris Hammond trade, the Dominican Sierra will turn 23 in April. He spent last season in Tampa where he pitched very well with one very major exception. He walked 8.32 men per nine innings. Some in the organization believe that he could be Mariano Rivera's successor if he can get his walks down to an acceptable level.

Chien-Ming Wang: The Taiwanese righty will turn 25 in March. Last year he followed a solid 18 starts in Trenton with five fantastic ones in Columbus. He has some very strong K/BB numbers and could be factor at the back of the Yankee rotation in 2005 if needed.

Dioner Navarro: The switch-hitting Venezuelan backstop is considered the top prospect in the Yankee organization. He'll be just 21 come February and already has a September cup of coffee (3 for 7 no less) under his belt. He needs at least one full season of seasoning in Columbus, but he's young enough that he could fill Jorge Posada's shoes quite nicely when the time comes. Looking ahead, if the Yankees pick up the option for Jorge's age-35 season in 2007, Navarro will still be just 24 in 2008, a partial season or two as the back-up in the interim could ease him in quite nicely. Of course, he could also be traded before spring training, as is the way with Yankee prospects. Keep an eye on his power numbers this season as he has seen his slugging steadily decline since leaving single-A in mid-2003.

Robinson Cano: The 22-year-old, lefty-hitting Dominican second baseman has followed Navarro up through the ranks over the past two years and is another key trading chip who could be elsewhere come spring training. If not, expect him to at least get a courtesy look at second base in March.

Felix Escalona The Venezuelan infielder will turn 26 in March. He posted some dreadful numbers in 192 at-bats with the Devil Rays in 2002 and 2003, but had a strong season as the Clipper's starting shortstop in 2004 (why he was never called up to take Enrique Wilson's roster spot is beyond my comprehension). Expect him to get a look as the Yankees futility infielder for 2005, especially if Miguel Cairo wins the second base job.

Andy Phillips: The Yankees 2002 Minor League Player of the Year will turn 28 in April. A second baseman by trade he can also play third, but spent most of last year as the Clippers first baseman, hitting a robust .318/.388/.569 after missing most of 2003 with an elbow injury. He was 2 for 8 with a homer while playing only third base in a September call-up and should get a very serious look as an inexpensive power bat who can play multiple positions.

Ferdin Tejada

Bubba Crosby: Bubba began a love affair with the Bronx faithful by hitting homers in his first two Yankee Stadium at-bats and making two great plays in his first start in the Bronx. He then did absolutely nothing for the remainder of the year in 53 more games with the big club, and not much worth mentioning in 116 at-bats in Columbus. A great deal of time spent riding pine with the big club may have hurt his swing, but the 28-year-old outfielder appears unable to hit lefties and, despite making the team out of spring training in 2004, seems like a long shot to wear pinstripes in the future, lest he become the outfield answer to Enrique Wilson. God forbid.

Again without the descriptions in a quasi-depth chart . . .


Brad Halsey (L)
Chien-Ming Wang
Ramon Ramirez
Jorge DePaula
Alex Graman (L)
Sean Henn (L)


Colter Bean
Sam Marsonek
Bret Prinz
Scott Proctor
Jason Anderson
Edward Sierra


Andy Phillips (1B/3B/2B)
Felix Escalona (SS/2B)
Robinson Cano (L - 2B)
Ferdin Tejada (SS)

Catcher: Dioner Navarro (S)

Outfielder: Bubba Crosby (L)

In other other news, Charlie Steiner has left the Yankees to do play-by-play for the Dodgers. This coming on the heals of Fred Hickman departing the YES desk for SportsCenter. There are rumors that Suzyn Waldman could join Sterling in the radio booth as a full-time color commentator, thus rendering the WCBS broadcasts completely unlistenable. Whatever happens, next year's Yankee broadcast staff is about as settled as the team's starting rotation for 2005. Stay tuned.

posted by Cliff at 8:10 PM

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