One of the pleasant surprises early in the 2011 season is the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs’ roster. They have the most talented group of hitters that we’ve seen in Charleston in a long time (at least dating back to the summer when Montero, Romine, Brandon Laird, and Bradley Suttle were all playing together in 2008, but I’d argue this group is better) – both in quality of prospects and quantity. Here’s where they’ve been playing so in Charleston’s first 7 games:
1 OF/C/DH has to sit every game, although two have sat in games while Segedin plays the outfield and Roller plays 1st. So far, they’re rotating who sits, although Sosa has drawn the short straw 3 times.
Now, you see a lot of Casey Stengel-like minor league rosters out there. Players tend to move around the field more than at the major league level. But you rarely see it with real prospects – they usually have a lineup spot and position reserved for them. Of that list, only Roller, Mojica, and Castro should not be considered prospects, although Roller could theoretically breakout into prospect status with a great season.
You’re looking at a very talented group. You probably know about Heathcott and Gary Sanchez by now – two top-flight prospects. Heathcott has been leading off (lineup positions are usually mandated by Yankee brass, not on-field management, so its a statement about their opinion of the player), but if he keeps hitting for power look for him to move to an RBI spot. J.R. Murphy should be pretty well known. The former 2nd round, seven-figure bonus catcher has a ton of hitting talent and athleticism, but is trying to shake off a poor debut in 2010.
Rob Segedin is a local guy from Old Tappan NJ who hit the cover off the ball in both college and high school, but has injury concerns. He played 3rd base in college, but the Yankees seem to have officially moved him to the outfield. He’s been starting in left, despite a crowded Charleston crew there and no real competition from non-prospect Castro at 3rd. Given that Segedin has some outfield experience and a fantastic arm, I’d say that the Yankees are planning on LF being his final destination.
In right field is Kelvin De Leon. De Leon was a seven-figure power-hitting bonus baby signed the year after Jesus Montero, leading inevitably to comparisons. He’s hit for power since being signed, but has struck out at Mark Reynolds-like rates in the low minors. Still 20 years old, the Yankees are going to give him every opportunity to make their investment worthwhile. For now, he’s the Riverdogs regular right fielder.
Ramon Flores probably has the most helium of the group, yet simultaneously gets hurt by the crowded outfield. He’s a small (5’10″) power hitter that had a great season in the GCL last year, hitting .303/.390/.419. Ideally, he would be playing left or right field, but he’s been stuck with some of his starts at 1st so far, taking playing time from Kyle Roller. But you know how much the Yankees believe in Flores when he’s batting 3rd and 4th in a stacked lineup where a guy like Roller routinely bats 8th.
Eduardo Sosa loses out the most from the arrangement. He’s a decent CF prospect, but is low on the totem pole. He’s actually a better prospect than Anderson Feliz (think Reegie Corona or Kevin Russo), but Feliz doesn’t have any real competition in the middle infield.
Luckily, this situation should resolve itself pretty quickly. Murphy, Heathcott and Segedin are strong candidates for promotions to Tampa, where they won’t have to share playing time with everyone. Until then, the situation bears some silver linings. The lineup is beyond elite at the Low-A level, which means that the team will score lots of runs, taking pressure off pitchers and putting hitters into lots of RBI situations. Its an excuse to give guys like J.R. Murphy playing time in different positions. It keeps players rested. And hey, its fun to watch.
You’d love to have everyone play every day in the positions they would ideally be in so not to run into the Montero/Romine situation again, but not being able to do so is a good problem to have.
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